When you visit the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, you’re being invited to someone’s home. I’m not talking about the Jakubisins, two volunteers who took over coordinating the sanctuary a couple years ago; this special place is really the home of over 250 recued farm animals who enjoy communal living free from fear and harm. Gwen Jakubisin points out that this isn’t a petting zoo and it’s definitely not a factory farm.
“We never force any of our animals to be interactive,” she said. “It’s only if they want to. That’s the first thing we tell visitors when they come is to be respectful of their space.” So, what is this place and how can you help it stay in existence?
What the Jakubisins Do
The sanctuary was started 15 years ago—it’s the oldest of its kind in Oregon. A nonprofit, all funds come from donors and the occasional grant.
“We’re completely volunteer, too, so no one gets paid. We all do this for free, so all of the money goes to the animals. Every cent,” Gwen said. Two and a half years ago, the sanctuary was financially unstable and its executive director and founder resigned. The Jakubisins left their home in Eugene and landed in Scio. “We like to sort of joke that we were dropped out of a parachute in the middle of nowhere.”
The Jakubisins, self-proclaimed city folk, had to learn everything from the ground up. They had to learn how to do all the animal care, the property maintenance, fundraising, donor management, and marketing. When they started, Gwen worked in digital marketing and was able to work from home. Now she works from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day on the sanctuary, making sure the animals have the best lives possible.
“My husband and I have had about two and a half days off in two and a half years,” she said. It’s not just about hanging out with cute animals all day—it’s hard work.
There are many ways animals end up at the sanctuary. The Jakubisins work with humane societies, Animal Control units, and the local sheriff’s department—it performs search and seizures when animals are being neglected—to bring residents to this little piece of paradise.
“We never pay for animals. We don’t believe in paying for them because we feel like that just perpetuates the idea that they’re objects, worthy of being bought and sold,” Gwen said.
It’s also not a place for people to just drop off their unwanted animals.
“We’re a nonprofit, so we have to be particular and it’s one of the hardest parts, having to turn people down,” said Gwen. They recently had someone pop 40 ducks over the fence when they weren’t looking, which is bad sanctuary etiquette. They prefer to know where the residents come from so they can provide the best care possible.
All the animals have unique personalities and it’s clear that Gwen knows them intimately. She calls each one by name and has something to say to each of them when they cross paths. There’s Rufus, the resident turkey greeter, who stands regally near the entrance, ruffling his beautiful feathers. PJ, a rooster with a twin brother named TJ, is prone to vocal outbursts when Gwen is being interviewed.
Then there’s Betsy, a cow that was rescued from a local dairy when she was pregnant with Oliver. She had three calves before, but this is the first time that she gets to raise one. They’ll both nuzzle you when you walk by. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to meet Helen, a blind bison who has been in the news a lot lately because of her friendship with Oliver. She’s sort of like his nanny.
What You Can Do
While the sanctuary could always use monetary donations, they also need volunteers. On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., you can help clean out the barn, put down fresh bedding, refill water, or help with minor maintenance like fixing fences. But you can also help by providing residents with enrichment.
“We want them to feel safe and loved, as if they belong, and it’s really important for them to have that connection with humans and to know that we’re not all horrible. Because they’ve all come from really horrible pasts,” said Gwen.
The Jakubisins only expected to stay at Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary for six months, but they’re not complaining. Taking care of animals is hard work, but it’s where their hearts are. If you’ve never been around farm animals, this is a unique opportunity to spend time with them in a place where they’re truly loved and respected.
Want to join the fun on Wednesdays and Saturdays? You can find the sanctuary at 36831 Richardson Gap Road in Scio. For more information about what the Jakubisins do or to make a donation, visit http://www.
By Anika Lautenbach