What started with saving one horse from going to slaughter turned into a full-time mission to rescue horses and other animals in need. Meet the people behind Lockport, Illinois' M&M Acres in our latest Faces of Chicago. Here's their story - in their own words:
Megan Maher, Founder M&M Acres
This was not intended to be a rescue.
I was going through a very rough period in life. Anxiety and depression were really bad. I could barely get out of bed. I hated being a stay at home mom, and we found this place. So it was just gonna be a personal stable where I could keep my horse, my friends could keep their horses, we could ride together and it would help my mental health.
And then someone asked me to take a horse that was in a bad situation. It didn't have anywhere to go. And I said we've got plenty of stalls. You know I took him, and then when people find out that you will take any animals, they'll call you when they see an animal in a bad situation. They'll call you when they hear about an animal, or pass by a place. You get call, after call, after call, after call. And how can you say no?
What do we have? We have horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, chinchillas, lizards, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats of course, mules, sheep, goats... I think that's everything.
A lot of people can't afford to keep their horses, to feed their horses, some of them cannot afford to humanely euthanize them, so we have a huge surplus of horses.
A kill buyer buys them just like beef or pork has a price per pound, so do horses. They wait in the kill pens for however long until they load them up on that truck and then take them to slaughter.
I have some friends that work on the kill lot and they called me and said you know, we have this horse and he's next on the ship list, can you take him? And I said well, I have all these open stalls, so yeah. I can take him I have room and um that's how we got Warrior.
Mirage came to us with her eye sewn closed, and an IV in her neck. It's not uncommon at all in the kill pen for them to gouge eyes out to try and subdue the animals.
Sometimes it takes just sitting out in a paddock for hours, read a book, catch up on our messages, just to sit out so they can just get used to being around us, and they see we're not going to hit them or approach them or hit them. And so it takes a lot to get them to trust us again.
Once that is done, we kind of see what they know, what they don't know. What they're like under saddle. If they can be ridden under saddle. Then our trainers start handling them.
Celia Porod, Volunteer
I think a lot of people identify with the animals because they've been through bad situations, and we are all faced with bad situations in life, and it's about resilience and kind of how you, how you get through it at the end of the day.
And we keep getting more and more volunteers and requests for volunteers. This is the most I've ever worked for no money. Even if we save one horse like I just think it's worth it.
The organization's not that old either. I mean Meghan started this two to three years ago, so it's still fairly new, and then becoming a nonprofit and a rescue, that was still recent. Moving forward is going to be very exciting.
Megan Maher, Founder
One of our largest benefactors had to pull out so to lose their support was a big hit to us. If we couldn't get all these guys that we have right now adopted out, and grow to take in more that would be fantastic. Um but right now, we might need to just maintain through the winter.
We do have the nonprofit status - we're just waiting on our 501(c)3. We have a lot of corporate donors on deck, just waiting for us. They said, "we've got you, you're in the system, as soon as you've got that 501(c)3 just let us know." Once we're through all of winter we can hit the ground running with fundraisers, and the corporate donors will help a lot.
Our goal is to not only be a haven for the animals, but for people too, because we have a lot of. people that come here and we all have issues. No one is perfect. We have a background.
I know what it's like to struggle, and to be in a dark place. And when you realize that there's a lot of people out there and you've found something that can help, you just want to share it with everybody. But people come here and, I don't know, the animals just - they help to heal.
Note: This interview was edited for content