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May 2024
First Nature Notes: A Busy Season
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Dear Friends of First Nature Foundation,

As I write this the weather forecast is for record high temperatures later this week and over the weekend, in the upper 90’s…it’s too early for that heat! And the rain has continued to evade us, with only very brief showers passing through maybe once a week, and usually just for a few minutes. We are so thankful that our run-in shelters and sheds allow our horses to have adequate shade from the brutal sun, but there’s not a lot we can do about the heat and drought except hope and pray. Due to lack of rain the grass isn’t growing as it normally would at this time of year, but our pastures are healthy enough that they still have some good grass, and we use a rotational grazing protocol to keep them fairly healthy. We are about to lime and fertilize to make sure they stay that way. Fortunately, at least our flower and herb gardens have some irrigation and they look amazing right now.

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The First Nature Foundation Volunteer Corps is growing and we are so grateful for all the help they give us. We’ll be featuring a volunteer in each of our monthly newsletters for the next year or longer. Perhaps you will find inspiration to join them and become an important part of First Nature. You can apply here!

Allow us to introduce you to Nanette Douglas, who started volunteering with horse and facility care back in January of this year. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, that’s where she first fell in love with animals and the outdoors. She spent most of her career in the Aerospace and defense industry working as a Manager and Director after earning a Bachelor of Science from Penn State and an MBA from Loyola Marymount in CA. Upon recently retiring in 2024, Nanette is now able to do the things she enjoys most as retirement jobs, which includes volunteering at FNF.

Nanette truly enjoys volunteering at First Nature. She was first attracted by our foundation's mission of aiding people in their personal and professional leadership development through interactions with horses and nature. The things she ended up really liking are: grooming the horses, interactions with co-workers, and to her great surprise, mucking!

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The ranch hosted some VIP visits over the past couple of weeks, starting with a visit from Darren Soto, United States Congressman. He’s promised to put us in touch with Veterans organizations and let us know about potential grants that might be relevant and available to apply for. A week later we hosted Tom Keen, Florida Representative, who presented me with my first challenge coin…what an honor! It was also the first challenge coin he’s ever given out, so I was doubly honored! Just yesterday we gave a tour to Saint Cloud Council member Ken Gilbert, who is a former Harmony neighbor of mine, and has offered to put us in touch with potential opportunities for programming and funding.

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Appreciation Day was just a couple of days ago and we are on a high with how successful it was. We hosted 50 First Nature Foundation donors, volunteers, staff members, and sponsors and their families. It’s one small expression of our gratitude for their previous and ongoing support. The day was hot and sunny but we took refuge in the air-conditioned barn to enjoy some refreshing cold beverages, delicious lunch selections, and sweet desserts. We then went back out to the open arena for photos with horses by Amanda Michelle Photos. We offer our thanks to Ex Animo Creations for their donation of sports drinks and water, and to Savvy Sweets for their donation of amazing chocolate chip cookies! They are all local small businesses that are worth your checking out, if you live in Central Florida.

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There are just 2 more sessions with the current cohort in our Horse Wisdom for Heroes program. During the most recent session our herb garden contributed to the men’s mindfulness resources and exercises. In addition to contemplating the clouds passing by as a way to soothe their nervous systems, we provided them with sprigs of basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and pineapple sage. Using our olfactory sense to compare smells grounds us in the present moment, reconnects us to a primary sense, and helps redirect our attention and perspective. It’s also just interesting, fun, and novel! We then refreshed the men on grooming and basic horsemanship skills, and then they took turns leading the horses around the trail. We plan to start our 3rd cohort immediately after the current one graduates, and are looking for other Veterans organizations to bring us cohorts so we can expand our reach and impact, as well as sponsors and donors to help cover program costs.

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On May 17, half of the Help Now of Osceola County staff came to the ranch for their first program. After introductions and logistics, we explained our horse interactive activities and let them select which they thought would be most beneficial to them to understand how we can help their clients and themselves. They had wonderful things to say about their experience at the ranch and the value of the activities we facilitated for them. You may recall we introduced Help Now last month; they are a nonprofit shelter organization for survivors of domestic violence, and through Cheryl Grieb, Osceola County Commissioner who visited the ranch several months ago, they are getting a grant for a year of programming with us. The rest of their staff will be coming for a second program this month on the 31st and we are excited to be welcoming them. Once they’ve all experienced our program, they can be more informed about how they will structure the programming for the women, kids, families, volunteers, and staff.

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This month we also hosted a Meet & Greet for one of Osecola County’s candidates for Sheriff, Russ Gibson. Over 80 people attended, considerably more than he expected. He was very pleased with the turnout (we helped market and announce the event to boost attendance!). Are you looking for a venue for an event? You may want to check out our gorgeous facility. If so, please contact me at kerul@firstnaturefoundation.org

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If you’ve read this far, you’re pretty special, and we know you appreciate our work. This year we need to pull in donations, sponsorships, and grants that will help us continue these programs. Please forward this email to people you think could be potential sponsors, or connect us with interested businesses who want to book a date for our Horseplay for Leaders playshops for their leadership teams, or nudge your friends to donate, maybe through a Facebook birthday fundraiser. If there’s nobody who comes to mind, there are other ways you can help…please continue reading! 

How Can You Help First Nature?

Each person is bestowed with gifts or resources that are valid and valuable. Every little bit helps, and your support can make a big difference in our mission and out community. Below are some ways First Nature is looking for assistance:

 

  • Advocate: Let your connections know about us. Share our posts on social media. Forward our newsletters to a community leader who could use staff development for their team.

  • Fundraise: We’re looking for someone to help us with grants and sponsorships. Have you helped a nonprofit with fundraising? If so, reply to this email and let’s talk!  

  • Donate: There are a variety of donations we accept; one time, recurring, in-kind gifts, etc. You can find out more and donate here

  • Volunteer: Your time and skills help us maintain our horses and facility. Get the application here. Or are you interested in serving as a board member for our nonprofit? We are still looking! 

  • Sponsor: Make an impact in the lives of a veteran, a teen, a survivor of domestic violence, or a parent or spouse of suicide. Become a program sponsor or just sponsor the whole organization! Learn more here.

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With a heart full of gratitude to those who have served our country, we wish you a restful weekend!

Kerul and Crew

 

 

 

First Nature Ranch / First Nature Foundation  

“Where the past, present, and future of leadership come together for the dignity and benefit of all.” 

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