This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.
Deborah Greene-Dellvon, Executive Director/Founder, Animal Guardians Horse Rescue, Inc.
What inspired you to start giving?
I have been inspired to start giving since 2009, when I lost my horse to his battle with EPM & permanent lameness from injury. I began looking for other ways I could help other horses in need. We were living in Virginia and I pulled a senior horse with special needs out of the Camelot Feedlot, now called Cranbury Livestock Sales Yard. She was the last horse in the feedlot waiting to be shipped to slaughter. The entire feedlot had been exposed to the equine EHV virus but she missed it, fortunately. Yet Nizhoni Red Rose (Rosie) had a long way to recovery. She had been starved, neglected and beaten severely.
Since pulling her out and saving her life, I have become inspired to begin an equine rescue and retirement sanctuary program for senior horses with special needs. I worked very hard, both financially and time & effort-wise, to get the rescue into the 501(c)3 public nonprofit with exemplary status with the Humane Society of the United States Safe Stalls Network that it is today. Rosie was an extreme survivor with a positive attitude and will to live. She inspired me to continue doing this and saving more lives.
What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money or more to your community?
To me, giving means to give more than just dollars and cents. It means to give of myself with my time, my energy and my dedication to causes beyond my everyday family, job, and life. It means to reach into what I have and what I know and to share it with those who do not have and do not know. I continue to give my time, talents, money and more to my community, beyond the equine retirement organisation I run.
I also give of myself by actively participating in animal welfare as a member of the Humane Society of the United States Safe Stalls Network Program, a member of The Homes for Horses Coalition, a member of the ASPCA Horse Action Team, and as an Adoptions Partner with the Los Angeles, Venture, Santa Barbara, and San Bernardino County Departments of Animal Care & Control.
I feel it is critical to give back to the community by participating in global and local community efforts to educate the public on animal welfare, animal rights, and responsible animal ownership best practices, thereby making the world a better place and improving the quality of lives and partnership between animals and humans.
What would you tell others who are looking to give back? Share a piece of advice to get them started.
My best advice to others looking to start giving back would be to find something you are truly passionate about, something that makes you happy, makes you comfortable, that brings you to your heart-home, and put what you can into it. Try to find other like-minded people to share your passion and drive your cause. Don't go at it alone. It is physically and emotionally exhausting. You need a support pod of people who all feel like you do. And together as a team you can accomplish a great deal.
When it gets tough, don't give up. Just turn to your team and ask for help and support. You will find what you are looking for as you move on through it. Be strong and be honest, be brave and be positive. You can and will make a huge difference. Even alone. But things are so much easier and better with a friend. Get your word out and you will find others to help.
You can count on me as well, if you ever want to bounce ideas, get support, or simply chat. Good luck, and thank you for giving back. Your good character is exemplary.
Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
My favorite memory was after we pulled Gitana out of the West Valley Animal Shelter in near death condition. Gitana was a 4 year old baby filly who weighed less than 400 lb. when we took her out of the animal shelter, where she was waiting to die. Gitana had been seized from her former owner after abandonment in a padlocked stall with no food or water in the Los Angeles area. She was starved over half to death.
When we arrived with our trailer to pick her up, she was lying huddled in a pile of wet shavings, shivering in the cold air with her head twisted the wrong way in a knot of pain and despair. I told the Animal Control Officer if she was unable to stand up to halter her and load the trailer, it was only fair to put her to sleep that day, right then. But when we approached Gitana, and petted her forehead, she saw the halter and her eyes widened. She struggled to stand up, and she was well behaved with the halter on. She hobbled and wobbled to the trailer, but when she saw the open door she pulled on me and practically ran into the trailer. She was more than ready to go to her new life. Her level of trust and excitement amazed me as I saw her jump into the trailer snickering and happy as can be.
Once in foster care, we got Gitana's teeth floated, got her weight back up, and lightly began exercising, rehabilitating and retraining her using the Humane Society of the United States Forever Foundation Training Program. She progressed all the way up through the levels, and did nothing but thrive. She stood so proudly in the cross ties as the sun shone over her. She was such a friendly young horse, with a ton of life to yet live.
Gitana was adopted within 9 months in good body condition, with good ground work training, and a great attitude. She became her adopter's best friend and riding partner, and is still with her adopter today.
I am very proud to have been an integral part of this critical rescue endeavor and rehabilitation/retraining task. It took a long time, a lot of group effort, and a lot of money to get Gitana her life back. But it was VERY worth it. What a wonderful young horse she blossomed into. Her life and her quality of life came first.
That's what it's about with my rescue organization. It's not necessarily about me, but it is about the gratitude and accomplishment I feel when we turn around such negativity and make something beautiful and wonderful out of it. Our horses deserve the best.
Gitana was a success story of survival and never giving up. That's what I am about and that's what Animal Guardians Horse Rescue Inc. is about. I give of myself to this organization because I believe in the goodness and care we provide.