Say hello to Stephanie, our incredible Volunteer of the Month! Stephanie is an amazing member of the Thursday morning animal care crew, where she’s affectionately known as their “bird girl”! While she may have been a bit nervous when she first started at Heartland, Stephanie is an outstanding volunteer and “does her job with gusto!” according to animal care staff member, Barb. Stephanie’s dedication to our residents – especially of the feathered variety – is what the sanctuary life is all about! Stephanie, thank you so much for all you do — it’s volunteers like you who make our mission possible!

1. What do you do in your time outside of Heartland? I enjoy reading, hiking, rock-climbing, traveling, and spending time with my two furry cat-kids, Kira and Kalista.

2. How did you find out about Heartland? What got you interested? I learned of Heartland from a table at Madison Vegan Fest in 2014. I was interested right away, but I had never worked around farm animals and therefore knew nothing. I was shy and nervous, so it wasn’t until seeing Heartland’s table at Madison’s 2016 Vegan Fest I decided to get over those fears and by September I was on the volunteer schedule. Definitely one of the best choices I ever made. It’s my favorite part of the week and I only wish my daytime job was more flexible so I could be at Heartland more often.

3. Can you describe a favorite/memorable moment or event at HFS? There are, of course, so many, but meeting Princess, the pig, last summer sticks out. She is so incredibly sweet-hearted. She would lay on her back in front of the old gate door out to the pasture, making it impossible for me to get through with my wheelbarrow, until I gave her a sufficient amount of belly rubs. She had me wrapped around her hoof pretty quick.

4. What is your favorite part about volunteering for HFS? I have two favorite parts, honestly. The acceptance of everyone (humans and non- humans). It’s very much a judgment-free zone. Each animal is allowed and encouraged to be themselves, and staff and volunteers take the time to know each animal individually. It truly lives up to its Sanctuary status.

I love witnessing others’ love for the animals, but I find it so very healing for me mentally, as I get the opportunity to learn who these animals are individually. I love Reggie‘s spirited protectiveness of Sweet Pea, Dolly’s love of burrowing into a laundry basket of clean straw, and Pico and Puff’s love of going after tiny bits of apples tossed near them. Knowing these beautiful souls are loved and well cared for by a kind-hearted village of volunteers and staff, gives me hope for all those left in unfortunate situations. Extending the mission of compassion and acceptance to all is therapeutic for me.

5. What do you wish other people knew about Heartland? How very inclusive it is and the respect and kindness we all show each other. I was intimidated to start, knowing nothing about farm animals, but everyone is patient, understanding and welcoming. Also, it’s pretty fun!

6. If you could adopt only one HFS animal, who would you pick and why? Tough question! I absolutely love them all, but Baxter (a rescued duck who is blind) became my baby from the first moment I met him. I love sitting near him talking gently as he allows me to stroke his feathers, and feeding him his favorite fruits and veggies. He loves corn but doesn’t always get to the bowl before the other ducks have eaten the favorites. I just adore his gentle and sweet personality.

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