Storybook Farms, a non-profit organization in Auburn, decided to postpone events and move to online programming to provide support for children and continue their mission of bridging the gap between hope and hardship.
Storybook Farms, which provides programs using equine therapy for children who experience mental and physical challenges, has experienced the effects of social distancing, said Dena Little, founder and president of Storybook Farms.
“We’re used to the pitter-patter of little feet and laughter and youthful exuberance at Storybook on a daily basis," Little said. "That has unfortunately come to a halt given the circumstances."
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected many businesses after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began urging people to stay home, though Little said she knew it was essential to continue operations to provide support for the children in her programs.
“The children that Storybook serve in particular are susceptible, I think, to having a lot of anxiety and depression and worry and uncertainty during these times," she said. "Their lives are already filled with a lot of hardship and uncertainty."
Instead of in person equine therapy and other activities the farm offers, Storybook now provides story time videos with the animals and activities that can be found on their website for the children to participate at home.
“We’re doing activities like treasure hunts, crossword puzzles and all types of stuff that we’ve developed specific to Storybook,” Little said.
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Storybook’s Kentucky Derby Day Fundraiser, their biggest fundraising event, was postponed to Sept. 5, 2020, the same day of the Kentucky Derby race.
The postponement affects the farm’s financial situation because maintenance of the farm and its animals is still necessary and expensive, Little said. As a non-profit organization, Storybook relies on donations, grants and fundraisers to run the farm and take care of the animals.
“I think we’ve felt the impact of it like all businesses have,” Little said. “The unexpected loss of our event-dependent revenue and the decline of charitable giving generally through the summer months really impacts us.”
Little said that the farm was also impacted by Auburn University’s switch to remote learning because of the number Auburn students that participate in their volunteer and internship programs.
“Typically, in a semester, we have several hundred Auburn students out here on a weekly basis,” Little said.
Storybook has found a way to continue their internship program, which teaches students about how to run an organization from day to day. Half of the program’s participants were able to stay and complete their work with online assignments, Little said.
“We are so grateful for the students that spend a semester with us learning about non-profit work and learning about managing budgets and working with vulnerable, at-risk children,” she said.
The farm was grateful the support that the community has shown it, especially after a quarry in Opelika was going to be placed near the farm, according to Little. The petition for the quarry was withdrawn, and Little said the support from the community during that issue is similar to the support they are seeing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It just shows what a community can do when it unites behind a cause," Little said. "I feel like that’s what we’re seeing now with small businesses being affected and small children being affected."
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