Janine Guido was moving a turkey to a different pasture on her nearly 18-acre farm outside Mechanicsburg, just one of the many tasks that makes up her days.
As founder of the nonprofit Speranza Animal Rescue, she houses 50 dogs on site (with another 81 in foster homes), 80 farm animals and a collection of barn cats.
Keeping this no-kill shelter up and running is no easy feat. It costs about $40,000 monthly, made up of expenses like cleaning supplies, bedding, medication, a farrier for the horses and insurance. Neither Guido nor her volunteers take a penny for themselves.
That’s why, in late May, she posted a fundraiser to help cover vet bills, farm maintenance and day-to-day operations that go along with caring for such a vast array of animals. She set a $10,000 goal on a GoFundMe page.
Within a week, the fundraiser had reached $35,000 and was shared by more than 3,000 people. Those numbers continue to grow.
“It always brings me to tears just knowing that so many people support our mission and what we do here,” Guido said.
Speranza’s mission—to give a second chance to the most abused animals and those who others deem a lost cause—has gone far over the last nine years, helping everyone from pit bulls to horses find a safe, content life at the farm or in a new family’s home. In fact, Speranza recently rescued more than 400 farm animals from a severely neglectful property in Shippensburg, hundreds of which were rehomed in a matter of days.
For Guido, her empathy for these animals comes naturally. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 18. After multiple hospital stays, neither the doctors nor her parents knew what to do.
Then she found her passion.
“I’m just kind of paying it forward and helping the dogs that other people have given up on,” she said.
When you’re faced with a mountain of expenses, it can be hard to look toward the future, but Guido has goals and vision.
Speranza is looking to rent some land from a neighbor. They eventually want to expand the rescue beyond its current capacity and help more animals in need.
Guido feels privileged to receive personal financial support from her family and boyfriend as long as Speranza can support itself. Her drive, as well as the family and volunteers around her, keeps Speranza growing.
Speranza’s goal of growth makes sense. The rescue receives about 100 phone calls per week, plus messages and emails, from people looking to place an animal.
“There’ll never be enough space,” said Guido, referencing irresponsible breeding that puts animals in such a difficult position in the first place.
Speranza’s recent GoFundMe fundraising is impressive, but community support is nothing new. Individuals, families and local businesses have donated money, supplies and even a John Deere utility vehicle to help the volunteers get across the land quickly and efficiently.
With COVID-19 fears waning, Guido hopes to start bringing events back to the farm by the end of the summer. Smaller, off-property events make a difference, but she wants people to be able to meet the animals they see on Facebook. That, too, could help spearhead community support beyond the latest funding round.
For Guido, it all seems so big. She never planned to be a business owner; it was just what had to happen.
“When I was in high school, I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to grow up and be a lawyer like my dad,’” she said.
But that dream was just a placeholder, and her tribulations with mental illness redirected her path.
She’s not the only one.
“A lot of the volunteers struggle with depression and anxiety and so forth, so it’s not just a safe haven for animals,” she said. “It’s also one for the people here.”
When Guido founded Speranza—which translates to “hope” in Italian—it was just her and seven dogs. But she can’t do it on her own anymore, nor can she do it on a dime.
“You know, I pretty much opened it just to help myself and help me survive in life,” she said. “It really blossomed and took off, and I’m kind of along for the ride.”
Speranza Animal Rescue is located at 1216 Brandt Rd., Mechanicsburg. To learn more or to donate, call 717-609-6020 or visit www.speranzarescue.org. There also is a donation location on site.
If you like what we do, please support our work. Become a Friend of TheBurg!