Guests were able to get a first-hand look at a dream come true when they attended the Little Blessings Veteran and Community Outreach Open House on Oct. 8. The event showcased the organization’s new 18-acre horse ranch at 5725 Sterns Rd. in Ottawa Lake, Mich., which is the realization of the dream of Little Blessings founder Jamie Paxton.
“We are so blessed,” Paxton exclaimed. “Thanks to the generosity of the Stoneco leadership team who believes in our mission, we have been able to lease this property for a $1 a year. This is the answer to a prayer and the realization of my dream since Little Blessings began three years ago.”
“We here at Stoneco, strive to stay connected within our communities that we reside in. Little Blessings Veteran Outreach was a perfect opportunity for us to give a helping hand to a great organization. We have many employees who are veterans and to be a part of something that targets that audience, we stand behind it 100 percent,” said Stoneco of Michigan General Manager Dan Sniegowski.
Paxton, a 25-year veteran herself, soon realized she needed additional help when she retired from the military. “Your life changes from the minute you begin basic training. You learn that no matter what, it is mission first and this is a tenet you live by. You are in a structured environment where everything is black or white and you must abide by the rules. Once you leave that environment, the transition can be very difficult and even impossible for many who also suffer some kind of trauma along the way. Those who have not served in the military do not understand these issues,” she stated.
“I had horses for the past 23 years and knew how much it helped me to be around them. I was fortunate to learn from Randy and Patti Mandrell of Refuge Services, Inc. and attended their Eagala model workshop in Lubbock, Texas. Their model became the framework for Little Blessings Veterans Outreach,” she said.
Paxton started Little Blessings Veteran and Community Outreach at Duke Petting Farm in Temperance, Mich., where she rented their horses and their facility.
To date, Little Blessings offers several programs for veterans, their spouses, and children along with monthly community dinners, and weekly podcasts.
Warrior Empowerment is a 50-week, five-phase program to assist veterans to make the transition from their military culture to civilian life using equine-assisted therapy.
A wellness program featuring yoga, meditation, massage therapy, and day retreats is part of the program providing for mental and physical growth and rehabilitation.
The Warrior Spouse program is equally important and meets the unique needs of those individuals looking for tools to help with individual mental and physical well-being.
Operation Military Kids program is one-of-kind in the country and features an 18-week three-phase program.
In addition, monthly community dinners are planned for families. “These get-togethers offer not only a meal but a chance for veterans and their families to socialize, share stories, build relationships, learn about important resources, and know they are not alone. The beauty of our program is no one ever has to leave. This is always a place for everyone to connect,” Paxton stated.
With the new location, a Warrior Garden has been established and maintained by veterans. “This garden has been sponsored by local businesses. Veterans and their families work in the garden and are welcome to take whatever produce they want or need,” Paxton said.
Paxton also offers a weekly live podcast and video covering resources and specific topics helpful for isolated and/or struggling veterans. This has also become a forum for veterans to share their stories, as well.
As there is no cost to the veteran or family members to participate in any of the programs specifically designed for isolated and/or struggling veterans, a sustainable fundraising program, “We’ve Got Your 6,” has been established encouraging regular monthly donations of $6 or more to help support the program.
Little Blessings has seven horses, three equine specialists, and two mental health specialists on their team.
“We have come a long way in three short years. We are truly blessed,” Paxton said.