St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

By Ric Lehman
Executive Director, MTI, MCI 

Volunteering: Helping Yourself While Helping Others


April 1, 2017 | View PDF

Webster's defines a volunteer as a person who willingly undertakes a service without pay. We define volunteers as angels disguised as people. Our mission here is: 1) to use horses to teach children basic life principles and the consequences of responsible behavior; and 2) to assist special needs persons in reaching their full potential through interaction with horses. In the words of Mother Theresa: "We feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Volunteers are the lifeblood any nonprofit, and every charitable organization, including ours, uses volunteers in some capacity. In fact, we simply can't do what we do for so many without the help of our volunteer angels.

Why volunteer? Whether you have too little or too much time on your hands, the benefits of volunteering are enormous, both to you, your family and the community. The right match can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, increase your "feel good" quotient, keep you socially connected and help you stay mentally and physically healthy. When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements.

Volunteering also provides most small nonprofits with the means to financially survive in a tough economy. Our volunteers lend a free hand with everything from mucking stalls and grounds maintenance, assisting with our special needs riders, organizing, or helping with fundraising events. Attending special events like the Miracle Maker's Gala helps. Keeping our administrative costs down to a bare minimum allows us to use funds to benefit the children who come to the ranch.

Most volunteers work with an organization out of a genuine desire to give to others. But, one surprising result is what the volunteer receives in return.

Volunteer Amy says she receives many benefits from volunteering at the ranch: "Seeing the smile on Wyatt's face (a 5 year old with cerebral palsy) while he accomplished exercises that at one point seemed impossible was amazing. Also, in life there are many things that can be un-enjoyable and cause stress, however as soon as I get to Haven Horse Ranch I feel alleviated of all outside stressors. When working with such a wholesome group of people one is able to relax. In a nutshell, I love Haven Horse Ranch simply because every day I go there I walk into a place that feels like my second home with people that care about each other and want to make a difference in the world by improving a child's life and are achieving that in such a loving environment."

It's also practically impossible to focus on your own issues when you are helping others. "Mary", a teenager with Gateway Community Services (a local residential rehabilitation program), was so moved and humbled by watching some of our special needs students being transformed and released from their disabilities through the freedom of riding that she decided to volunteer on a regular basis.

Checkout this year's Miracle Makers Gala, April 22nd, Dinner, Dancing, Auction and more from 6 to 9 at The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.

So whether you volunteer your time or your resources, as an individual or a group, you too can make a difference. You too can help change the world, one child at a time. Call us at 904-813-5710 and let's talk about how. I promise, you will be changed in the process.

"It is one of the beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Haven Horse Ranch, a non-profit, 501c3 organization is a licensed SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center and member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship). The ranch provides riding lessons, horse camps, clinics , retreats and trail rides to all individuals including those with special needs. "Horses just have a way of breaking down barriers," explains Lehman. Whether child or adult, whether "normal" or "special needs" doesn't matter to the horse. If you're good to them, they'll do right by you." To sponsor a child, make a tax deductible contribution or for more information contact Haven Horse Ranch at 904-813-5710 or [email protected] or visit our website at


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