There is a saying somewhere out there that for every negative thing that happens something positive comes of it. COVID-19 has turned lives and communities upside down but it has also brought people together in ways we never would have imagined. Are you in between a job right now? You child is home and they need a community service project? Or maybe you just want to feel positive and impactful in a good way at the end of the day? Check out these ideas of ways you can give back and make a huge difference in your community!
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Humans bonding with horses
They have character. They have personality. They have been rescued. All the horses at Phoenix Rising Horse Rescue and Sanctuary have a story to tell and are finding respite and care with dedicated volunteers. When a volunteer arrives in the evening to bring the horses inside Bart is standing near the fence line waiting patiently as he watches your every move. A Belgian draft weighing over 1,200 pounds, Bart is a gentle giant.
His equine buddy Bubba, another Belgian draft went to horse heaven a few months ago, and Bart misses him, you can sense it in his body language. Whereas Bubba was a tad pushy when he wanted a volunteer to bring him inside the barn for his evening grain and hay, Bart would wait patiently for the volunteer to come back out and lead him inside, walking calmly and with pause to look around.
The little ponies Tracey and Whitey raise holy havoc when they are ready to come inside. Many a volunteer have fallen for their tricks where one distracts and the other has pushed the gate open leading the way to escape. They make the most of their found freedom and make a beeline for the stacks of hay in the barn, grabbing as much as they can before the volunteer chases them out. Then they are off running into any paddock gate not closed before the out of breath volunteer manages to put a harness on them. As they are led back inside to their respective stalls they each grab one more mouthful of hay, satisfied with their shenanigans.
All the horses at Phoenix Rising have a story to tell and have been rescued from neglectful and abusive previous situations. Phoenix Rising started in 2000 by founder and President Sue Kreutter whose “love of horses” ignited a desire to rescue horses from neglect, slaughter, and abusive living conditions, and in 2008 the horse sanctuary became a nonprofit organization with the mission of rescuing horses in need and providing them with protection and a safe haven of hope. More than 40 horses have been rescued over the years, some were adopted out to caring new owners and many have stayed at the sanctuary until they passed.
“My plans are to continue to take care of geriatric horses, since there are few places that do this,” says Sue.
Every day, seven days a week there are two shifts of at least two volunteers that come morning and evening to do the horse care chores. Bringing them out in the morning to their outside paddocks, feeding them, filling up water buckets, and cleaning their inside stalls. Then the evening volunteer crew arrives and sets up their grain, fills their water buckets, brings them in, grooms them, and picks up the manure in the outside paddock so it’s clean for the morning and its lights out for a peaceful evening rest.
Shelia Rockwell, who lives in Watch Hill, is an energetic woman in her golden years who has a passion for horses. She has been a dedicated volunteer at Phoenix Rising for three years and shows up every Friday night to help with the barn chores, her favorites are Bart and the ponies. “I always loved horses, since I was a little girl.” While most of her previous life experience has come from riding, volunteering at Phoenix has been an exciting adventure for her. “I thought I would give it a try,” said Shelia. “I love anything to do with horses, and even don’t mind picking up poop.”
Take a tour / Sponsor a horse / Volunteer – Phoenix Rising Equine Rescue and Sanctuary, 1 Pine Woods Rd, North Stonington. 860-599-0555 or 561-207-0490 /www.phoenixrisingequinerescue.org/
Caring during COVID
During the week a committed group of 50-75 dedicated volunteers venture out daily to either deliver meals on wheels, grocery shop, or transport seniors to medical appointments in their community. This group is part of the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers (SRIV), Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, and total about 400 volunteers actively giving back and enriching lives in their communities. The mission of the organization? To ensure frail, homebound, low–income seniors and adults with disabilities are able to live independently by providing programs that allow them to stay in their homes and age with dignity.
COVID-19 has created an unsettling situation for many people and especially for the senior population whose age and health concerns make them even more vulnerable. But SRIV provides services such as grocery and medication pickup to those seniors that are homebound and disabled.
“You never think this would happen, but it’s nice to see how many people are coming forward,” said Lindsay Tanner, Assistant Director of Southern RI Volunteers. “It’s heartwarming.”
The amazing team of SRI volunteers have been very busy doing grocery shopping for clients who call the office needing assistance. The last few months Southern Rhode Island Volunteers has partnered with Belmont Market to provide grocery shopping and delivery to senior residents of Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter, North Kingstown and Jamestown. This opportunity consists of volunteers taking grocery lists orders over the phone, volunteers completing the shopping and then delivering the groceries to the clients.
This is just one of the ways you can get involved in giving back to your community. Harriet Grayson, a resident of Westerly has been volunteering for SRIV for 10 years doing pretty much anything they need.
“Just the satisfaction of helping people, knowing that someday I might need these services,” said Harriet. “Most of the work is done by volunteers and it is the most efficient organization.”
They also have opportunities to provide medical transport for seniors to wellness appointments and be a substitute meals on wheels delivery volunteer.
If you are interested in any of these opportunities, contact SRIV today to register as a volunteer: call (401) 552-7661 / https://www.southernrivol.org/rsvp
Beautifying the Beach
Who doesn’t love a day at Misquamicut Beach! Keeping it clean and keeping tourists informed of all the exciting events and things to do takes people power. Volunteers play an important role in keeping things running smoothly at the beach and are very much needed. If you like chatting with folks and are proud of Westerly, than volunteering at the tourist information center might be the right fit for you! Volunteers are needed to hand out maps and other material that people visiting will find helpful when enjoying their stay here and also to let visitors know about the different events and venues going on during the summer.
For this volunteer role it would be helpful if you had a good familiarity with the beach and the different businesses down here, explains Caswell Cooke, Executive Director of the Misquamicut Business Association (MBA).
“We are advocates for the good of the whole beach,” said Caswell.
With all the beach traffic and people enjoying time in the sand and sun this summer there has been a lot of trash and debris left behind. Road crew volunteers are really needed during the week and play a vital role in keeping things looking beachy clean with trash pickup, sweeping sidewalks, painting curbs, and overall beautification work. For opportunities to help contact Caswell Cooke at 401-932-3519.
Stand Up for Animals
Dogs and cats love us unconditionally, and the bond with them during COVID has brought us even closer together, with our pets loving all the time their human has spent at home. There are still dogs and cats waiting for a caring and loving owner and a home to call their own. If your passion is more fur focused than check out Stand Up For Animals (SUFA), a non-profit animal welfare organization in Westerly. The mission is to promote the health and welfare of animals and to educate those who care for them. Volunteer opportunities range from clerical/office work, fundraising and event planning, pet food deliveries and pickup, grant writing and donor development just to name a few.
“Volunteers add great value in what Stand Up For Animals does and support us in achieving our mission,” says Lina Carreiro O’Leary, President of the board for SUFA. “Volunteers help in our efforts to keep animals safe and healthy. Some things just fill your heart without trying…those things are animals.”
If you are passionate about helping animals and families with animals and are interested in more details regarding volunteer opportunities, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact (401) 348-9595.