A local Ohio nonprofit that uses equine-assisted therapy to help veterans is in danger of closing.
Healing Of Our Veterans Equine Services, aka HOOVES, is trying to raise $100,000 in the next few weeks to secure its Swanton Township, Ohio retreat center property. Amanda Held, the executive director, said that a significant financial partnership fell through.
“We have to raise this funding or we’re done.”
Held said the nonprofit started serious discussions in December, 2017, with a major organization that offered the partnership. The two entities jointly discussed the need for a larger space when the 30-acre Wilkins Road property was offered to HOOVES on a lease-to-purchase agreement.
“Everything was right, as it was happening,” she said. “It was right until it wasn’t. Then all of a sudden, it just wasn’t.”
What are the Details
Mrs. Held declined to name the organization who’s promised partnership fell through. A veteran with the program said it was ProMedica that had offered and then rescinded its support. ProMedica’s actions left HOOVES in crisis, leading him to believe the organization does not care about veterans.
HOOVES has been able to pay rent in recent months primarily because Mrs. Held gave up her salary to do so. She worked out a three-year land contract with the property owner and now needs to raise $75,000 for the remainder of the down payment, plus $25,000 to cover six months of mortgage payments.
Mrs. Held said she already has funding agreements in place to provide $75,000 in 2020 and again in 2021, but those dollars cannot be used for the down payment the nonprofit needs to secure financing.
“This place allows us to give our veterans the best experience,” she said. “I’ve got other funding lined up, we just need to get there.”
Many feel that it is the veterans that will suffer the most if HOOVES closes.
Frank Mohler attended a HOOVES retreat in April and it changed his life, he said.
“I connected with the horses,” he said. “I have a sense of purpose where I didn’t before. After 14 years of reckless behavior, drug addiction, and every other symptom of my self-induced prison, I found the key to my freedom through the HOOVES program,” he said.
Mohler said he was raped during his service in the Navy. Following that trauma, he transferred to a combat unit of the Marines, specifically hoping to be killed, and was deployed for 13 months.
He said he tried counseling through Veterans Affairs, but getting a diagnosis and a prescription wasn’t enough.
“That’s great for short term, but it’s just a Band-Aid on an arterial bleed,” Mr. Mohler said. “It’s not going to work for the long term.”
He stays at the HOOVES retreat center four days per week, volunteering to help care for the animals. Its existence is crucial for his continuing healing, he said.
“Every day is a battle,” he said. “There are days where it’s harder than others and I want to fall back into the ways I used to be because it was easier to numb the pain instead of deal with it. … [HOOVES] helps me focus elsewhere.”
Mrs. Held started the nonprofit in 2009 to provide free services to area veterans in need. She has put in more than $100,000 of her personal funds.
“I’ve exhausted my own resources to make this service available for the veterans, and now, I need your help,” she said.
HOOVES has established an online fundraiser at gofundme.com. Donations may also be made through its website, hooves.us. Checks made payable to HOOVES may be sent to 4055 Wilkins Rd., Swanton, OH, 43558.
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