Lauren Clements, Managing Director at the Neuse River Farm, has been with CORRAL from the beginning. This is her story.
I’ll never forget my first day volunteering at CORRAL. It was before the days of Derby Dinner, before we had farm day, even before we had volunteer orientation. What it did have was Joy throwing you right into the girls’ experience! For those that know me, you probably imagine that I was begging and pleading to come work at the farm at every turn, but that’s not quite the case.
When I first met Joy, I was 16 and working as an assistant for the pony school program at McNair‘s Country Acres, a lesson and boarding barn in Raleigh. She was the new lesson director at the farm, so I just thought of her as my boss’s boss. Soon though she had this idea to start a nonprofit to bring girls to the farm who need it the most and would never have the opportunity to see let alone work with a horse. Since I was already working there, she had me volunteer with them some Saturdays and I thought, ‘sure seems along lines of everything else that I’m doing and I get to be around horses more so why not!’ Plus as far as I could tell, these girls were just like the other kids taking lessons at the farm. And then CORRAL grew and moved to Joy’s dad’s farm in Cary.
Less than a year later, God pulled me right back to CORRAL. I began school at NCSU and one of my suitemates just by chance happened to be in a Bible study with Rebecca Bishopric who was volunteering as an instructor at CORRAL. I also knew Rebecca from working at McNair‘s and when she found out that she would be doing Bible study in my suite, she decided that I needed to keep volunteering at CORRAL! She asked me over and over again until I finally caved in and joined her one Saturday at the farm.
When we arrived, Rebecca walked me up to the arena where the girls were finishing up their lesson and then left to go to other barnwork. Joy came over and intended to introduce me to the girls but really before she could say anything, three of the girls came running up and gave me huge hugs and I was completely taken aback. I didn’t know who they were, but I could tell they just loved being on the farm and also needed some work on learning about appropriate boundaries, haha. There was one girl, however, who did the opposite. She actually tried to hide behind Joy to try and avoid the introduction. Joy knew exactly what she was doing though and casually stepped to the side and said, “This is Edi.” The stark contrast between Edi and the other girls was so eye-opening to me about how the experiences that the girls have been through had affected them in such a way that they simply didn’t know how to appropriately say hi to someone new. But, I could also see that day that their love of being on the farm and working with the horses was just the same as my own, if not more! From that moment, I was hooked.
I came back every Saturday and then started to come after school one day a week as well. I got into a routine where volunteering at CORRAL just became part of my life and part of who I was. I was still in college, so volunteering at CORRAL molded me into who I would become. I was the typical animal science major that wanted to be a vet but one month into my animal science class, I realized that I really only wanted to work with horses. Plus, I didn’t want to see them for an hour to give them a shot or to do a lameness exam and never get to see their progression as an athlete. I was getting that fulfillment of working with horses at CORRAL. AND, on top of that I had the opportunity to use my passion of horses to change lives.
Soon, I became an intern working at the farm as many hours as I could one summer. That turned into a part-time job because CORRAL was growing, and I just couldn’t stay away. And then, I transitioned into the Equine Director role in 2012 as a full-time employee. As you know, my story at CORRAL doesn’t end there. But my time volunteering taught me so much about how to advocate and make a true difference in just one girl’s life. From tutoring sessions to writing a $800 Equus grant to wrapping the abscessed foot of a horse to making salads for the first Derby Dinner – all these small tasks were building steps to creating big change in each girl’s life that will change not only her but generations to come.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer at CORRAL!