I spent long 12 hour days (sometimes longer) helping with the animals on both properties, in the office, with other volunteers, paid staff and many hours with Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner.
The volunteers were told to inform Ellie and Jay of any problem with the animals so it could be picked up and responded to, however when volunteers voiced concerns about the health of any animal they were caring for, Ellie and Jay would become enraged and/or very dismissive. They reacted suggesting that individuals suggesting an animal had a health concern were saying Ellie and Jay were not doing a good enough job.
Volunteers (without whom the place could not run) were often frightened of Ellie and Jay with good cause. I witnessed much inappropriate and aggressive behaviour towards people by Ellie and Jay. Local vets would no longer work with them and at one time this meant that an animal who was very sick was not getting the urgent treatment it required since the vet who would work for the GB had to come over 90mins in the car.
As for the 60 dairy cows, I was told by Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner themselves that they had never set eyes on the cows. Infact all that had happened is an anonymous man called the GB and said he had 60 dairy cows who were sick as he was going out of business. He asked the GB to buy them from him. The GB said they would take them, though not pay for them, I don't believe. No one at the GB had the phone number of this man neither did they have any details of the whereabouts of these cows. They posted pictures on the website of the cows only they were not the actual dairy cows. For all anyone knew, these cows didn't even exist or if they did, they certainly didn't have enough information about them to present to the public. Their fundraising was fraudulent. No one has held them accountable to the $100,000 they raised for this specific purpose.
I witnessed definite mismanagement of donations and funds given to the barn and ending up in the personal pockets of Ellie and Jay.
One day I asked who was on the board of trustees and they presented a list of names. I was then told that they had never actually met and there were no minutes or anything for any meetings.
Ellie and Jay frequently got very enraged and I felt that they were very disturbed. This would be irrelevant to The Gentle Barn if they didn't take it out on the volunteers caring for the animals meaning they were then too scared to be assertive when worried about the health of an animal. and also if it didn't mean they were blinded at times to the true state of an animal's health.
The GB has an almost cult following. Ellie and Jay are charmers at first and tend to charismatically attract certain characters who will then all but worship them. Unfortunately time and again, as soon as these individuals voiced anything that Ellie and Jay did not agree with, that volunteer was reprimanded, and eventually forced to leave, often immediately made to leave.
I realise anyone reading this may think I am a disgruntled volunteer but in fact I didn't get reprimanded or asked to leave and left on what they thought was good terms. I saw what was happening early on and set about trying to get a glimpse into all angles of the organisation whilst I could. I was deeply saddened in all honesty because the idea behind this organization is wonderful. Unfortunately without proper management, a board of directors and greater transparency, it is far far from the ideal it sets about portraying.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
my own feelings of wellbeing when with animals. it could really help people and animals if it were really as described and not at the hands of two very unstable people
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
create a board of directors/trustees who were independent and had the best interest of the animals in mind. I would have the finances filed and made available. increase transparency. Have the power of the organization dispersed a bit more across a number of experienced individuals to decrease the chances of corruption as is now occurring
What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?
Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)
I met some wonderful people in some of the other volunteers and some incredible animals
How did this volunteer experience make you feel?
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?