Can You Build A Dream If No One Shares It?
I’ve been on Steemit long enough now to wonder if the international community might get on board with a local project. All over the world, needs exist. Many times, those needs are so great that even social media with its tremendous reach isn’t capable of effecting much change. But what about a problem Steemians can help solve? One with volunteers on the ground who won’t be dipping hands in the pot, won’t be demanding a six-figure salary (or any salary at all,) a project that could make a real difference, possibly make news, and make a lot more people aware of the power of Steemit and its on-board system of cryptocurrency?
I live in Central Appalachia, one of the most downtrodden regions of the U.S. In many ways, it’s like a third-world country. In fact, missionaries from less privileged nations have actually come to this region trying to offer help. See what I mean HERE. Photo at right is a screen capture from this video.
In addition to the abject poverty, drug abuse, and other social issues we face in Central Appalachia, there’s an overwhelming tendency toward animal neglect and abuse. I’ve posted about this already, so there’s no need to cover that ground again. See my collection of articles on Steemshelves, HERE. You should find plenty of photos and videos in those posts. This problem is so rampant that even county officials take part in it with complete immunity. I’ve written a novel about this which is currently in the hands of an agent. For anyone interested in documentation, read the report compiled by Eileen McAfee, private shelter investigator, HERE. TRIGGER WARNING. Click with caution. The animal control officers named in this report were not only never charged with a crime, but are still employed by that animal shelter in daily contact with children and animals. I intend to post more about this situation in the future, including the re-upload of an expose I published on my author website earlier this year, only to have my website hacked at the hosting level and all database information deleted.
Needless to say, approaching officials for help in Southwest Virginia is not an option. It is far more likely to land any whistleblower on the wrong side of the law themselves. People who might otherwise be persuaded to get involved with animal causes are typically too frightened to become associated with any organization that presents a conflict with the Mountain Mafia, like my rescue Tazewell ARC.
Example 1) Financial Advisor at local bank who was our biggest sponsor in 2014 and 2015 was told by a customer that if he did not cease his affiliation with Tazewell ARC, she would take her business to a competing institution.
Example 2) Band Director at local high school was approached by a parent after a ballgame. The parent insinuated that a county official had suggested a change in funding allotted for the band by the county board of supervisors if the Director continued her affiliation with Tazewell ARC.
Example 3) A Virginia State Bar investigator was terminated as a consequence of pursuing an “aggressive line of questioning” with the Commonwealth Attorney named in the McAfee Report linked above. This, at a glance, is unrelated to the immediate animal issue, but on closer inspection appears to be part and parcel of the same political strongarm tactics. Read the story HERE.
Let me assure you: the animals in Central Appalachia are suffering. Not much has changed for them in Tazewell County, despite my group’s best efforts. I’ve reached out to Matthew Gray (Virginia HSUS representative,) Lisa Starr (local ASPCA representative,) Michelle Welch (Head of the Virginia State Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit,) Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network, and Target Zero. Target Zero is the ONLY group that made contact with Tazewell County officials and they actually attempted to hold a town hall meeting. Due to media blackouts in local newspapers about the event (all local papers are staffed or edited by animal shelter board members,) fewer than twenty people showed up for the meeting and Target Zero disappeared from the scene.
So how does this involve Steemit? Well—what if Steemit manages to accomplish what all the major animal welfare groups in the U.S have failed to accomplish in Central Appalachia, and that is to empower a grass roots movement that changes the animal welfare landscape here forever?
We’ll never defeat the current system if we take it on head-to-head. The political corruption is too deep, the stakes too high for local officials who’ve used county jobs and taxpayer monies for their own gain for far too many generations. I have operated and can continue to operate as a non-profit animal rescue as long as I am adequately funded. Steemit seems to provide the perfect platform to raise this kind of money. Not even from handouts and donations, but from the existing system of upvotes and earning potential. I think we just need to rally some animal lovers to brainstorm initiatives to help the cause.
I can offer land and housing for up to thirty dogs. I have rescue partners in New England states willing to take our dogs and place them for adoption in no-kill zip codes, but this costs money. I have the ability to offer sanctuary and rehabilitation to dogs who need a little extra work before going into homes. And I can offer sanctuary to those with medical conditions or certain behavior issues that make adoption very unlikely. I just need regular funding.
In 2014, my daughter and I purchased land with the goal of building a no-kill shelter and dog park. The property had an existing structure, an older home that inspectors deemed structurally sound but in need of modernization. Substandard wiring, substandard plumbing, and no heating or air conditioning. It’s basically a barn, but since 2014, we’ve rolled over 300 dogs through here on their way to loving homes in New England. Even though my husband and I own a small home that’s in good repair, I have volunteered to spend almost all my time at this one caring for the animals, especially over the past two years when volunteers and community services workers disappeared one by one never to return.
One thing we desperately need is outdoor fencing. Currently, the only outdoor play area the dogs have is a tiny section of yard closed off with kennel panels. Panels like these work great on flat areas, but not well at all on the side of a mountain. We need to fence and sub-fence at least two of our seven acres. Dogs who stay here for only a couple of weeks before transport manage quite well in a kennel environment. But for dogs stuck here over a period of years, as some of ours have been, the absence of outdoor play can begin to take a toll. They need exercise. Stimulation. Sunshine. And right now, I can't give them that, nor can I get any other no-kill shelter to take them because of existing fear-based behavioral issues from prior abuse. Below is a video that shows most of the land we need to fence, but have never had adequate funding to do so.
The next video is a little long. It's a tour of the "wild acres," the portion of our property away from the main structure. This video would be of interest to anyone keen on our idea of building a facility to help Appalachian animals, but also to people from other parts of the nation and world curious about Appalachian flora and landscape.
We've managed limited renovation of the property, but many of the temporary improvements were not sustainable. For example, when we first purchased the property, the basement was dominated by a large, non-functioning coal furnace. We removed the furnace with help of volunteers we had at the time, and later added bright colors and creature comforts like fresh paint and floor mats. Unfortunately, we could not afford to replace the mats as the dogs destroyed them, and this portion of the basement is back to being strictly utilitarian.
The biggest needs the rescue has right now with winter approaching are a working septic line and for the water line to be buried. We also need some form of heat. I have access to a wood burning stove but no way to install the flue without hiring someone. If I use electric heat, I have to run new wiring. Nearly burned us all down last winter with the existing wiring, which is cloth-covered aluminum. The last quote I got on a total rewire according to kennel specs was around $7,000. In lieu of that, I could have an electrician simply run a new line of Romex from the box especially for a heater. For the record, whatever modifications we do to the existing structure here will be according to kennel specifications, not residential.
Please let me know in the comments if you have ideas about how to raise awareness about the plight of animals in Appalachia, as well as the funding to fix the problems.