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Edwardsville animal sanctuary to use grant award for a sustainability plan

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EDWARDSVILLE — Owners of the Gracious Friends Animal Sanctuary recently learned that not getting what you ask for can be a good thing.

Candace M. Brown said she and her husband, Erik M., had asked the Northern New York Community Foundation’s board of directors about a grant to help fund construction of a building for animals they take in. After meeting with foundation staff, Mrs. Brown said, her expansion plans turned into looking at the nonprofit’s vision and future.

Taking the lead from foundation staff, the Browns then decided to apply for a grant that would fund a consultant to analyze the animal sanctuary and review improvements or suggestions to both maintain it and explore future growth. The latter idea was successful, and foundation board members on Tuesday approved a grant of up to $5,000 from the agency’s unrestricted endowment for just that.

“They’d help us in that capacity — board development and an outreach plan,” Mrs. Brown said. “This dream goes back many years.”

She said she has had a deep love for helping animals either in need or having no place to call home, stemming from her dog from her youth being hit by a car. She described that event as “the biggest upset of my entire life,” and has since cared for dozens of animals in need.

Gracious Friends Animal Sanctuary was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2002, and is located on the Browns’ 120-acre property just outside of Edwardsville. They’ve been at the property, which has a main house, a barn, 70 acres of open field and a 50-acre wooded lot, since 1999. Mrs. Brown said back then, the previous owner left behind 11 cats and some rabbits, and “that’s how it started.”

Throughout the past 12 years, Mrs. Brown said, she and her husband have cared for upward of 80 animals, including horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rabbits.

“I’m not sure what else it’ll include in the future,” she said. “As we are, we can only take in so many animals. Most animals now have been taken in through different organizations.”

Gracious Friends works closely with Friends 4 Pound Paws, a Gouverneur-based rescue, and other local animal groups.

The animal sanctuary, she said, is referred to by her husband as “a nursing home for older animals.”

“We are a domestic animals sanctuary, and take in abused, unwanted or neglected animals,” Mrs. Brown said. Animals are either adopted out from there or spend the duration of their life at the sanctuary. The no-kill facility won’t euthanize to make room for other animals. Horses are out to pasture, not in stalls all day, and rabbits have access to grass, not just small cages.

“It’s more of a habitat,” Mrs. Brown said.

She said it will be nice for someone to ask the right questions to prepare the animal sanctuary for the future.

The Gracious Friends Animal Sanctuary grant award was one of three awards recently approved for St. Lawrence County.

Throughout the past couple of years, grant awards have increased as both the Community Foundation has expanded operations into St. Lawrence County and there has been more community support and donations.

For more information, call the foundation at 782-7110.

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