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Friday, January 22, 2010

Roving volunteers visit horse rescue in Hardy

Trip was part of a service project to visit 50 nonprofits in 50 states.

Patricia Muncy (right) instructs Kirsten L'Orange and Tim Malcolm on where to put donated horse blankets and sheets on day 13 of the couple's 50-day journey.

Denise Allen Membreno | Special to Laker Weekly

Patricia Muncy (right) instructs Kirsten L'Orange and Tim Malcolm on where to put donated horse blankets and sheets on day 13 of the couple's 50-day journey.

Kirsten L'Orange and Tim Malcolm wanted to see the country. The two, who have a long history of giving back to their communities, have combined their desire to see the United States and serve others into one journey.

L'Orange and Malcolm are visiting 50 states in 50 consecutive days and volunteering at a non-profit organization, including one near Smith Mountain Lake, in each state.

"It came out of the idea that we wanted to see the U.S. and we wanted to see it in the most positive light possible," explained L'Orange. "Everyone is saying how bad everything is, and we're going to all these organizations where they are doing phenomenal things with less resources and increased demand."

L'Orange, 25, is a California native. Malcolm, 26, is originally from New Hampshire. They met in Boston where L'Orange is an analyst at a biotech firm. She is taking time off to make this trip. Malcolm was laid off earlier this year from his job as a project manager at a construction firm.

"We started Jan. 4 in Vermont and worked our way south from there," said Malcolm. "We worked at a Meals on Wheels program, an alternative-learning program ..."

"We also did a Meals on Heels program where you walk the food all over New York City," L'Orange interrupted. "In Alaska, we're working in a rape crisis center. We're working in transitional housing shelters, eco-restoration projects, with developmentally disabled adults. It is a diversity of organizations because we wanted to show people they can be creative with their volunteer hours."

On Sunday, the couple were in Hardy at the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue. They found RVHR the same way they found all of the charities they will be visiting: by searching the Internet.

L'Orange grew up around horses and knew she wanted to visit at least one horse rescue. They have two on their itinerary; in addition to the RVHR, they will stop at a horse rescue in Ohio.

"I thought it was neat," said Patricia Muncy, founder of RVHR. "When they asked me, I said, 'absolutely.' You would think they would go with the big humane societies, but they're volunteering at a lot of little organizations, which brings attention to what we [the organizations] are doing."

And that is one reason L'Orange and Malcolm started The Civic Projects: Serving 50 States in 50 Days. During their 14,000-mile cross-country journey they hope to bring attention to the positive things. They will drive to 48 states and fly to Alaska and Hawaii.

It is a lot of togetherness even for a couple who said they are romantically involved. They survive by drawing on their senses of humor and by enjoying the people they are meeting along the way.

"It's been overwhelming so far," said Malcolm. "The most amazing thing has been the people we've met. Everyday, we spend time with people who love what they are doing and are very passionate about it, and then other times we get to spend time with the people or animals who are recipients of that passion."

On Sunday, the couple helped Muncy feed the 30 horses at the rescue. Malcolm learned to drive a tractor and both helped put away donated equipment. Since hearing about the Civic Projects, Muncy has been following the couple on their Web site.

"Who at their age wants to spend their own savings, drive around in their own car to help others?" asked Muncy. "How cool is that?"

L'Orange and Malcolm said they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

"We have been taken in by friends and family across the country," said L'Orange. "Whatever donations we get, we are saving, and at the end of this, we are going to split all the money between all the organizations we visited."

They are hoping to raise $16,200, a figure they came up with by multiplying 800, the number of hours of community service they will be donating during the 50-day journey, by $20.25, the amount at which the average volunteer hour is valued. If they reach that goal, each organization with get a check for $324 at the end of the trip.

That may not seem like a lot of money, but for organizations such as the Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, every dollar counts. Muncy took in 66 horses in 2009. Of those, 33 were placed in new homes, several had to be put down for health reasons and the rest remain at the rescue. In addition to her five personal horses, Muncy houses 20 rescues. Five are there to receive assisted care, which is for owners who do not want to give up their horses, but need help caring for them.

"We need volunteers, reliable volunteers," said Muncy. "It's hard work, not just playing with the horses. We need to feed the horses and clean the stables," she said.

The RVHR also needs donations of grain, hay and money for vet bills and medicine.

As for L'Orange and Malcolm, from Hardy they were to travel to Greensboro, N.C., to work with an organization that addresses community needs.

"What I'm hoping is they are going to get the interest of kids their age to step up and start helping," said Muncy.

L'Orange and Malcolm said they are hoping to inspire others and spread the word that there is a lot of civic pride in the United States.

Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, 1725 Edwardsville Road, Hardy, VA 24101. 721-1910. www.rvhr.com

The Civic Projects: Serving 50 States in 50 Days, www.thecivicprojects.com