The nonprofit group Equine Rescue of Aiken is gathering donated supplies and sending them to the flooded areas of South Carolina to help livestock owners cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Last year, the rescue sent $160,000 in relief supplies to hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. All of the supplies were funded by donations. The group also took in several racehorses rescued from Puerto Rico.
“We’ve done a fairly good job helping people and we’ve done a pretty good job with the small animals but we don’t really do anything with the livestock: with horses and cows and goats,” President and Operating Director Jim Rhodes said. “Nothing is being done about those animals.”
Rhodes has figured out the logistics of gathering donations, getting them to the disaster area and distributing them to the animal owners who need them.
“We’re small so we can get in there quicker than the big organizations can get in there,” he said.
Rhodes managed to get shipping costs to about $1.85 a mile, which comes to about $900 a truckload, which he says “is pretty cheap.” Last year’s mission cost about $2,250 per truck to Texas and Florida.
“I started reaching out to some of my suppliers, just like I did last year and I was able to get about 2,000 bales of hay donated. I was able to get about 10 tons of feed so far donated,” he said. “It’s a little niche that we have found that we can be quick, we don’t have to fight the bureaucracies like the larger rescues do and we can get in there to where it’s needed when it’s needed.”
The rescue is working with a Florence group which established a drop-off and collection point at the Florence County Fairgrounds. Farmers who need hay or feed can go there to pick it up. Rhodes said the National Guard is also helping distribute the material to farms that may be inaccessible for normal vehicles.
Rhodes has gathered enough donations to fill five trucks. Two had been delivered by Saturday. He is working to collect more to be distributed in North Carolina once the flooding recedes and roads are accessible.
“I just can’t get in there right now,” he said.
Since Equine Rescue opened in 2005, more than 800 horses have been saved from slaughter or uncertain futures. While Rhodes collects donations for disaster relief, he still has to keep the rescue running.
“You can donate to this but I still have to pay the bills at the rescue,” he said. “We’re 100 percent donation-dependent and we need to keep working also. We have 65 head of horses now.”
Or you can send a check to:
Aiken Equine Rescue
532 Glenwood Drive
Aiken, SC 29803