Two decades ago, Kathy Stevens followed her heart, leaving behind a career in education to start an animal sanctuary.
Since opening in 2001, her Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, New York, has directly rescued over 5,000 farm animals. Animals are "in my DNA," Stevens told Hudson Valley 360. "I grew up on a farm and I've known since I came out of the womb practically that there's more to them than most people have the opportunity to understand."
The 150-acre sanctuary is home to pigs, cows, goats, horses, chickens, and other animals. While Stevens might not be teaching in a classroom, she is educating people at the sanctuary, whether it's members of the public on weekend tours or kids making virtual visits to the farm. She has also started a pilot program to help people who need assistance taking care of their farm animals at home, and guides people interested in becoming vegan.
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Stevens doesn't work alone; there are volunteers who feed the animals and clean their living spaces. Donna Albright and Dawn Freedman both started volunteering in 2008 after retiring, and said the experience has been life changing. "I feel at peace when I'm around the animals and it's very healing to be at the sanctuary," Freedman said in a statement. "There is something that draws us there that fills us up, and it has touched me in a very compelling way. Deep in my heart I know that while I'm helping the animals, they are helping me, too."
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