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It is over a month after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida panhandle, but there are still groups and people working tirelessly to help those who continue to live in the devastating aftermath of the nearly Cat5 hurricane.
One of those groups is Jefferson County’s Rainbows Edge Equine Transition Center, a 501c3 organization that serves as an adoption and rehabilitation center for injured, neglected, aged or abused horses.
Rainbows Edge also provides assistance to equine owners who are under a financial strain or are victims of a natural disaster - disasters such as Hurricane Michael.
On Saturday, November 17, volunteers and Rainbows Edge director Roxanne Spear met behind the rodeo arena located on the Jefferson Extension Office grounds to fill up trailers and vehicles with hay and animal feed for the cats, dogs, and horses impacted by Hurricane Michael; in addition, the group also transported supplies for the human owners of these pets, bringing a load of food and water as well.
Spear says she’s lost count of how many similar loads have gone out for the people and pets affected by the hurricane.
November 17’s event was one of two “pop up” staging events where a caravan of volunteers gathered to transport a large amount of feed and supplies westward.
The first pop-up staging event fed 117 horses, Spear says, and this second event easily saw more food and hay going out to the hurricane victims.
When the final county was done, Spear says that enough people showed up to the second pop-up staging with 278 horses needing feed; the Rainbows Edge volunteers were able to distribute enough food to feed an estimated 178 horses before running out of supplies.
“Every bit is donated,” said Spear of the truckloads of supplies that Rainbows Edge is helping bring to the pets and people in the impacted counties.
Spear adds that most of the donated supplies come from Monticello’s Tractor Supply and Tallahassee’s Florida Farm and Feed store, where customers can purchase horse feed or cat and dog food and request that the store hold the supplies on one of Rainbows Edge’s designated pallets.
Multiple times a week, Rainbows Edge has to go and pick up the filled pallets as the donated supplies keep pouring in.
After multiple trucks and trailers were loaded up on November 17, Rainbows Edge and the team of hardworking volunteers headed out of Jefferson County to Youngstown, FL. (located in Bay County), where the supplies would be brought to The HOPE Project, Inc. for the distribution part of the pop-up staging event.
The HOPE (Healing Our Patriots with Equines) Project is another non-profit organization that focuses on providing rehabilitation and healing to veterans and horses alike.
Founded by David Trogdon, a retired Army Chaplain, The Hope Project is based out of Youngstown, and has been serving maltreated horses, wounded warriors, first responders and veterans since October of 2016.
Local horse owners were told in advance that Rainbows Edge would be transporting supplies, and according to Spear, there were so many individuals already lined up to receive feed and hay for their equines that the caravan had difficulties pulling in and setting up the staging area.
“In 30 minutes all we had with us was loaded into trucks and trailers on its way to animals waiting for help,” said Spear.
In less than an hour, the supplies had been distributed and sent back home with grateful owners in order to feed hungry horses, cats and dogs.
Spear also says that while there has been an abundance of assistance pouring into these Hurricane-torn counties, there is still very little aid on the animal aspect, especially for horses or other agriculture animals.
“We were still looking at power lines down on the ground over there,” said Spear. “It’s still not good."
According to Spear, her group of volunteers saw more than just downed power lines - for many, there is still no internet service and cell phone reception is spotty, isolating the people who are struggling to return their lives to normal.
It may be over a month later, but the impact of Hurricane Michael has far from healed as the communities in the hardest-hit counties continue to piece together their lives.
"It's unbelievable," adds Spear. "You just can't explain it to the people who haven't been there."
While Roxanne Spear and Rainbows Edge has been the coordinator for the majority of these supply runs, Spear wanted to be sure to recognize the members of the community and businesses that have contributed in these ventures: Equine Rescue of Aiken, SC; Group 17; Hickory Hill Farm, TN; WWEC; Florida Farm and Feed; Waukeenah Feed and Fertilizer; Mahan Farm; Moccasin Stables; and “so many private donars that have donated through these groups and businesses,” says Spear.
Want to contribute? Individuals who want to make purchases that will go towards future feed runs can purchase the cat, dog or horse supplies at Florida Farm and Feed (located at 3600 Weems Rd #C, in Tallahassee) or the Monticello Tractor Supply Co. (located at 1575 S Jefferson Street). Purchases made for Rainbows Edge can be left at the stores, and Rainbows Edge volunteers will arrange to pick up.
Those who want to help by volunteering their time, vehicles and fuel to make future runs can contact Roxanne Spear at Rainbows Edge by calling (850) 878-8441.
To learn more about The HOPE project visit their Facebook at facebook.com/HealingOur PatriotswithEquines.
To learn more and stay updated about recent Rainbows Edge projects, “like” their page on Facebook at “Rainbows Edge Equine Transition Center”.