The Gress Mountain Ranch, owned by Kathryn and Ben Gress and located on 15 beautiful acres in Orefield, Pa., is a 501c3 non-profit public charity that operates both a sanctuary for domestic and exotic animals and programs for therapy, education and volunteerism that provide meaningful ways for people to benefit from interacting with animals:
• Animal-Assisted Therapy for mental health issues and healthy psycho-social development; populations served include a wide ranch of diagnoses (for example, autism, under-socialization, mental retardation, depression, grief, anxiety, etc.)
• Animal-Assisted Activities for life-skills training and supportive care for adults and children with emotional and mental challenges
• Volunteer experience in animal care, sound environmental practices and grounds maintenance
• Supportive environment for youth and adults on probation to meet their community service obligations
• Educational events promoting the benefits of human and animal interdependence and animal welfare
• Internship and training site for veterinary technical students, nursing students, and counselors in training
The formal and informal healing that takes place at The Gress Mountain Ranch is truly miraculous, and has been called God’s “heaven on earth.”
Mission:Animals Helping People & People Helping Animals
The Gress Mountain Ranch is all about the healthy interdependence of humans and animals, and models this for the larger community. Abused and neglected animals are given life-long care to recover and thrive. Through our programs people interact with the animals to develop and deepen their personal experience of the human-animal bond. The Gress Mountain Ranch is dedicated to the mutual well being of humans and animals by inter-twining their lives through nurturing, learning, fun, respect, healing, and celebration of life.
The Ranch works with volunteer, educational, business, social service and law-enforcement agencies to include people from all walks of life, with special focus on serving at-risk, inner city, underserved and special needs children, and underserved adults and adolescents, some of whom are on probation.
The ranch is a sanctuary: a safe haven of recovery for animals, and a therapeutic community for adults, youth and children. Our unique accomplishment is rehabilitating the animals in our care and connecting their stories of survival and healing to the personal experiences of people who have suffered physical, mental, emotional, or social trauma. We are a “forever” home to our animals who become permanent residents and are given special training to strengthen their role in therapy. Additionally, the ranch is an extremely active site for volunteerism and promotes animal welfare education.
Experiences are structured to meet the needs of each person or group. Such interactions may be formalized, as in Creative Expressive Therapy or Group Psycho-Educational Programs, or less formal, through volunteerism and service projects. In 2011, volunteer hours totaled 11,256, court-ordered community service hours totaled 2,333, and 6,789 hours of Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy were provided. Over 55 animals currently have a ‘forever’ home at the ranch.