LENOIR CITY, Tenn — The power of community is strong in Lenoir City.
At the beginning of July, Horse Haven's old truck broke down on the side of the interstate while transporting a horse. The volunteers reached out for help, and they got more than they bargained for.
Some generous local donors at SouthEast Bank stepped in to help. The gift will help save more horses' lives.
If the Horse Haven barn in Lenoir City was a kingdom, the horses would be the crown jewels.
"You know, we're not only a haven for healing for the horses, but we're a haven for healing for people as well," said Ashley Ford, operation director at Horse Haven.
Horse Haven's mission is to rescue, rehab and re-home injured and abused horses throughout Tennessee. The nonprofit started work in 1999 and has since rescued more than 1,200 horses.
"Even if they're only here for a day, or an hour, that's love and attention that they might not have had and would have suffered out in the field somewhere," Executive Director Nina Margetson said.
The nonprofit relies on volunteers and the community to stay afloat, so when their noble steed, otherwise known as "Ol Green Truck," broke down on the side of Interstate 40 in early July, they had nowhere else to turn.
"It's a very scary situation having our volunteers push that truck away on the side of the interstate," Ford said.
They sent out a plea for help on Facebook, expecting some cash donations to help fix the truck they have or put towards a new one. Lucky for them, a knight in shining armor sent a life-changing email.
"We thought it was a scam," Margetson said, noting it's rare to just get an email out of the blue.
"But when it came to be true -- and all this has worked out today -- it has just absolutely warmed our hearts."
SouthEast Bank in Lenoir City saw the story, and knew they needed to help.
"Being a community bank, we understand the purpose of investing in the community, and we support the community with our volunteer hours and with our pocketbooks," CEO of SouthEast Bank Bill Thompson said.
That's exactly what they did when they decided to gift them with a shiny new steed, a 2020 Ford pickup truck.
"This was a vehicle that we bought for a work truck for the bank, and with the vehicle shortage in the whole country right now it's not easy to find a vehicle, so we thought that we could just donate this to the community and into Horse Haven and to help their project," Thompson said.
The staff didn't bat an eye when they saw their neighbors needed help.
"Well, we hope that this will be a vehicle we'll be able to use for years to come and to continue their great mission for both Horse Haven and all the volunteers and continue to their horse rescue mission," Vice President and Branch Manager Brett Hurst said.
It's a gift that's just the start of this rescue's long reign.
"I would say this is the biggest blessing that we can receive. It's truly a gift, and we're beyond thankful," Ford said.
SouthEast Bank is also fixing the old truck free of charge. With two vehicles in the fleet, Horse Haven will be able to rescue even more horses all across the state.
If you would like to volunteer or donate, head to horsehaventn.org. You can also donate by mail at PO Box 30393 Knoxville, Tennessee 37930.
There are also some events coming up to benefit Horse Haven. Next year, they will bring back Dancing for the Horses.