Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.
Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.

The Ups and Downs

When I dreamed of The Gentle Barn at seven years old, I didn't picture it quite the way it is today. My declaration was that I would have a big place full of animals and I would show the world how beautiful they are. I had no idea that The Gentle Barn would be this big, that I would have this many animals, and I didn't know how hard it would be at times.

My little dream blossomed into having a Gentle Barn in California and in Tennessee and we are preparing our third location as we speak (will announce soon). I have 190 animals and am about to have more. For each one, I've made a vow to care for them with dignity, respect, kindness, and love for the rest of their lives. Fulfilling that promise is the most important thing to me. Knowing them and getting to care for them is such an honor. Implementing that care, however, and managing the many staff we have, has been an art form I’ve had to learn. How often to communicate with staff, how to teach them everything I inherently know, and when to turn them loose has been a long process. Having animals in different states has been such a blessing, but I realize that now for the rest of my life, with our goal of having a Gentle Barn in each state, I'll always be missing someone!

I have been so lucky to not only live my dream but have a husband to do this work with me, as well as three beautiful human children too. They bring me so much joy! My kids have their own interests and plans and sometimes my dream and theirs conflict. Our ten-year-old daughter is an extremely talented dancer and she has year round competitions, rehearsals, and dance shows. Over the last year, there have been so many times that because of her rehearsals she couldn't travel with us to Tennessee and we had to go without her. It's hard for her when we're not there and we miss her so much! As mentioned before, we’ll be starting the next Gentle Barn this summer and she has two huge competitions that she needs to train for. We are still trying to figure it all out. When our daughter is with us, she misses her friends and wants to go home.

I get to live my dream with my husband and it's the greatest thing ever! Together we save animals, host groups of children, help people think of animals with more kindness, and open Gentle Barns across the country. We have little time to socialize with friends, very few date nights, and not much personal time together at all. We work such long hours, with very few days off, and deal with so much stress, that it challenges our relationship.

No matter how many obstacles we're faced with and no matter how difficult it seems at times, we always find a way to make things work. We spent three months in Tennessee last summer to open the new facility and then flew out to Tennessee each month since to host groups of foster children, rehabilitate and work with the animals, and train our staff. Sometimes our daughter came with us and sometimes she didn't. We had to have someone stay at The Gentle Barn, California, in our place to care for the animals there, whom we missed so much. We just celebrated our year anniversary in Tennessee and everything all worked out in the end.

We are embarking on a brand new Gentle Barn, which will invariably bring its own set of trials with training staff, healing animals, travel, balancing family and work, raising funds, and finding time with each other, but we know it'll all be ok. Each day I get to wake up to my dream, I get to live on purpose, and I get to do something that really matters. I get to watch and support my children in following their dreams as well. Each night I get to fall asleep next to the love of my life. Every gift comes with its down side, but they are but a small price to pay for being able to live this life and do this work. When I look into the eyes of the animals we save and the children we host, I know I will keep persevering no matter how challenging, for in the end the healing and love that I see in those eyes is all that matters!

Thank you so much for supporting us so that we can bring peace to more animals, people, and Mother Earth! Don't forget to stay tuned for more announcements about the next Gentle Barn!

Ellie Laks-Weiner
The Gentle Barn

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Spotlight Sponsor of the Month

At Tomato Joe’s, we’ve had the privilege of seeing the bounty of Ellie and Jay’s important work blossom over the
years and we’re as excited as ever to watch their heart-warming story continue. We discovered The Gentle Barn
years ago when local food developer Angel McNall was working with our newly opened pizza shop developing her
amazing Vegan cheese that would ultimately become known to all as Follow Your Heart Mozzarella. After we
introduced the first Vegan pizza in SCV, we really had to fight hard to keep that dream going. It was the Gentle
Barn’s support and partnership that gave us the impetus to keep the dream alive in those challenging early days.
Ellie and Jay are such passionate and committed souls, and their mission is unequivocally improving our World,
one beautiful creature at a time! We are most proud sponsors and friends of The Gentle Barn.
“Tomato Joe” Brown,
Long Time SCV Peep & Founder
Tomato Joe’s Pizza & Taps Restaurant, Canyon Country

Tomato Joe’s offers a variety of delicious vegan options for pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches, and appetizers.