One of the most important things we do at Pressed Juicery and The Chalkboard is giving back and getting involved with local organizations that are doing good work to improve the lives of others. Since opening Pressed Juicery has given back over $40,000 to various organizations, charities, and non-profits but our support is more than a dollar number—we strive to learn as much about the organization as possible and spread the message of good work that is being done by the charities and their volunteers. This month, our donation is going to The Gentle Barn of Southern California, so we thought we’d sit down with its founder and discuss a little bit about the work that they do to rehabilitate animals and humans, alike.

The Chalkboard Mag: The Gentle Barn is currently home to 130 animals that are rescued from severe abuse, neglect or slaughter—how do animals find their way to your rehabilitation center?

The Gentle Barn: “We work with The LAPD, Animal Control, Special Crimes unit and other rescues and individuals. We take in animals that no one else wants and that are too old, sick, lame or scared to be adopted by anyone else. We rehabilitate them and give them sanctuary for the rest of their lives. The Gentle Barn was my dream since I was 7 years old. When I was a kid, I would bring animals home when they were lost or hungry or hurt and my parents were not amused. They would get rid of the animals and say that I could have as many animals as I wanted when I grew up –  so I now have 138 animals!”

TCM: How do the animals at The Gentle Barn help heal children and adults suffering from emotional distress or trauma?

GB: “Animals are non-judgmental, they love unconditionally and they always tell the truth! Because of this, kids who don’t trust people are able to trust and respond to animals. Also, there is nothing like a huge horse to help an arrogant, defensive teen find vulnerability and humility! I have seen shut-down kids open up and start talking about their lives; I have seen angry kids soften and get vulnerable; I have seen defensive kids let me in because of an animal; I have seen kids who have absolutely no plans for the future and no concept of themselves get hope and inspiration for a great life from being here.”

TCM: How does The Gentle Barn teach your visitors about kindness, compassion, confidence and reverence for all life?

GB: “Visitors take horses for walks, hug cows, feed animals, paint fences, build barns and contribute to the animals and the place itself. They get to say, ‘I did that, I made a difference.’ Just last night, one of our visiting teens said to another girl, ‘It is not just us who suffer. What I realize is that we all have the same feelings, whether we are human or animal, and they are just like us and it is pour job to protect them!’ We are all connected and this beautiful young lady saw it and understood it in a very deep way!”

TCM: You work closely with schools and teachers—how are schools getting involved and benefiting by working with your organization?

GB: “We work with a lot of special needs classes where, through the interaction with the animals and the work at the ranch, we can help the kids learn motor skills, vocal skills and confidence. Many times, kids are seen for their disability and at The Gentle Barn we see them for their greatness. Here they get a chance to say that they can, instead of that they can’t. One day we had a young special needs girl who wanted to step up into the barn to lie with the oils. Her teachers immediately said that she could not do it and reached to help her. We asked them to let her try it on her own and they finally agreed. Well, this girl stepped up into the barn by herself and she was beaming fro ear to ear because she had a chance to try, to succeed, to triumph – and she was very proud of herself. This pride leads to wanting to try other things that they believed they couldn’t and before you know it, she was trying things that her staff thought she could never do. It is amazing when you give someone a chance to be great and believe in them!”

TCM: We know you are striving to open Gentle Barns across the country. Can you tell us a little bit about how you are doing that and how people can get involved?

GB: “It is our dream to have Gentle Barns in every major city in the world. And we are working on it, but first we have to have our current one running smoothly and meeting its monthly budget with ease. To help, people can sponsor a group, sponsor an animal or make a monthly donation towards vet care. They can follow us on  Facebook and come for a visit on a Sunday and bring their friends. We do great work, but we can’t do it without people’s help!”

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