Source: Sherman Publications

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Twine that binds: Neighbors rally to provide hay for O.A.T.S

by Susan Bromley

August 07, 2013

Brandon Twp.- Julie Lentz no longer has horses, but wanted to use her land to help feed the horses at a local charity.

Despite several obstacles, thanks to a concerted effort by neighbors, hay was made while the sun shined and 18 horses at O.A.T.S. (Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles) will be munching clean hay from Lentz's property for the next few months.

"Hay right now is very expensive and because of the weather, it's hard to get for horses, they have to have almost perfect hay," said Lentz. "They colic real easy on bad hay. Colic is a stomach ailment that is life-threatening for horses. I am happy to not have the hay wasted."

Lentz drives by O.A.T.S., located on Weidemann Drive off M-15 regularly. She wanted to help the non-profit organization, which offers horseback riding therapy for children and adults with special needs and hit upon the idea of offering baled hay from her property.

She waited for optimal weather conditions as there must be at least three days of no rain, in order to get hay cut and fully dried so it will not mold when baled. However, some other problems sprang up. Rob Lentz, Julie's son, was cutting the hay when the cutter broke.

"He said, 'Mom, we're in trouble now,'" she recalled.

With the clock ticking, Julie Lentz called her friend Ron Allen, a farmer, who told her he could cut the hay on her largest field the next morning. Another friend and farmer, Scott Vantine, said he could cut her 4-acre field. And yet another neighbor, George Bruyneel, also came to the rescue, fixing her broken cutter so Rob Lentz could cut the third and final field.

The drying was done in time, and as Rob finished baling the hay, Julie called Beth Pellerito at O.A.T.S. to ask who was picking up the 325 bales. When she learned it would just be Pellerito and her husband, Julie called neighbors Bill and Ingrid Kliffel for reinforcements. They sent their sons, Andrew, Greg and Brian.

"They are raising them with an attitude of service to the community," said Julie. "They wouldn't accept payment. They dropped what they were doing, picked up the bales and put them in a horse trailer."

After working all day July 26, the hay was delivered and in storage by the time rain arrived that night. In all, there were 600 bales of hay, with more than half given to O.A.T.S.

"It was a miracle," said Pellerito of the hay donation. "Julie asked, 'Can you use (the hay)?' I said, 'Use them? I have 18 horses to feed—I can use them!' There is always a need."

Pellerito took over running O.A.T.S. after founder Nancy Heussner died suddenly in March.

Pellerito's son Nicholas, who has cerebral palsy and is deaf, has been in the O.A.T.S. program for 17 years, since he was just 2-years-old. Beth Pellerito became a volunteer and instructor and said when her best friend passed away, she called Steve Heussner, Nancy's husband, and told him not to worry about O.A.T.S., that she and the other volunteers would continue Nancy's mission of helping children and adults with challenges.

"It's been going good," said Pellerito. "If we didn't know what we were doing, we figured it out and never missed a beat."

O.A.T.S. recently began a program for Wounded Warriors and is also in the process of making a paddock for petting zoo animals to help O.A.T.S. participants that can't ride horses.

"They can become involved by grooming and petting the animals and we have a lot of special needs people that come out and like to help," she said. "It empowers them and it's wonderful, because there is no judgment with animals, they love you unconditionally."

O.A.T.S. will host their annual horse show from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Sept. 15 at their farm, 3090 Weidemann Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information or to see how you can volunteer at O.A.T.S., call Beth Pellerito at 248-620-1775.