Hidden Acres Safe Haven seeks donations

DOWAGIAC — As the sun shined down over Hidden Acres Safe Haven Thursday afternoon, a chorus of animals could be heard from the farm — kittens mewed, cows mooed and horses neighed. Even a turkey, affectionately called Jennie-o, warbled in the distance. In front of it all was Milagro, a baby goat no bigger than a large cat, who happily danced atop a picnic table as he bleated out for attention.

“His name means ‘miracle’ in Spanish,” said Dawn East, who co-owns the farm with her cousin, Heather Matthews.

When he was born, Milagro was stomped on by his mother, leaving him with lasting brain damage. However, East and Mathews said it had not slowed him down much.

“We took him to the vet, and they didn’t think he would make it,” Matthews recalled as she scratched the goat behind his ears. “I think the vet thought we were crazy, but we couldn’t give up on him. … He’s come such a long way.”

For East and Matthews, providing shelter and miracles for animals in need, such as Milagro, is why they do what they do. But now, with COVID-19 straining resources, they are turning to the community to help make those miracles happen.

To assist with the financial needs of the nonprofit in the wake of COVID-19, East and Matthews are seeking donations. Currently, the safe haven needs: Purina kitten chow, Purina cat chow, Friskies wet food, equine bedding pellets, bleach, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, Frontline or Advantix flea drops for cats, cat toys, food dishes, sweet feed, apples, carrots, potty pads and litter.

The farm is also seeking monetary donations to assist with hay purchases and veterinary bills. In addition to direct contributions, residents can make donations through Chewy.com or Amazon.com. Soon, they will offer virtual adoption and feed sponsorships.

“We have been lucky to scrape by, and our community is 100 percent amazing,” East said. “We are very fortunate to have the support that we do.”

Hidden Acres Safe Haven, the nonprofit created by Hidden Acres Petting Farm, 50582 Pleasant St., Dowagiac, provides homes to unwanted livestock animals or other farm animals who were born with disabilities.

The nonprofit also cares for and assists with adoptions of a limited number of kittens. With fewer vets open due to COVID-19, fewer spays and neuters are being performed, leading to an increased number of kittens born during the spring “kitten season,” despite Thursday’s announcement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that vets could resume practice. Matthews said the farm had received increased calls regarding kittens in need of homes. While the safe haven cannot currently take in many litters of kittens, the cousins said they are hoping to do everything possible to help the ones that they can.

The nonprofit’s resources are being stretched thin due to COVID-19 closing the farm to visitors and likely limiting the summer activities that bring revenue into the farm. Because of this, East and Matthews said they need the community’s support now more than ever.

“We are nervous because our goat yoga classes feed our animals for the winter,” Matthews said. “We are really relying on donations at this time. We have to because we just don’t know what the future holds. Animals don’t care about stay at home orders. They still have to eat.”

As they watched Milagro prance across the farm’s green grass with smiles are their faces, East and Matthews said they remain optimistic that the safe haven will be able to continue to provide miracles for animals like him.

“I think we are a valuable part of this community,” Matthews said. “I just want people to know that we are still here, we are still working hard, and we are still caring for the animals.”

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