Ellie Laks beams with joy, warmth and beauty, and so do the people and animals blessed with her presence. This became immediately evident to me the moment I saw her beautiful face and heard her relay the beginning of her amazing story. We chatted in the hip loft headquarters of Gardein’s Tasting Kitchen in Marina del Rey. And as the people packed in to honor Ellie for her incredible autobiography called My Gentle Barn, Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope and her inspiring non-profit organization named The Gentle Barn, I was increasingly blown away by the passion and love around me.
You see, since Ellie was a tiny little girl she found solace in the beauty of nature, the presence of and relationships with animals, and in rescuing the beings that needed her helpful compassionate embrace. She was beckoned towards them, no matter how many times they were apathetically taken away by others. She desperately needed the gentle power of connection with animals. As she puts it in her book, animals served as her “witness” that kept her stable while enduring an array of unfortunate odds. The goodness within Ellie tugged at her until she was able to rise out of an enveloping darkness and begin to realize her dream of creating what would become The Gentle Barn. And, now the symbiotic relationship between otherwise forgotten and abused animals and the people who come to The Gentle Barn fosters healing and compassion, just as Ellie pronounced she would enable as a child.
The Gentle Barn, located on a gorgeous 6-acre property in Santa Clarita, is home to over 160 animals. It is open every Sunday for people to come volunteer, hug, learn about and care for the animals. Groups of kids, at-risk teens and adults are welcome to join in the mission to help rehabilitate these previously abandoned and abused animals, whom now thankfully live in Ellie’s beautiful sanctuary of hope and love. You can come too! Join Ellie, her Gentle Barn partner Jay Weiner, her crew of volunteers and animals any Sunday, book a field trip, birthday party, or even sponsor an animal or group of children. And, experience pure peace and joy!
There can be something very daunting about looking into an animal’s eyes, seeing their majestic beauty or even feeling their pain, and then fording on to pick up a fork of meat to ingest. If you too find yourself experiencing something similar, or for other reasons want to eliminate or even just cut down on eating meat products, Gardein offers a vegan option to ensure you are still getting the important proteins that your body needs. For the evening’s affairs, the Gardein chefs prepared a delightful “fish” and “chicken” taco bar that was fresh, tasty and lovely. You can create your own Gardein taco bar and a plethora of other meals, by picking up their products at many grocery stores. Give it a shot! You just might like what you taste.
Ellie’s book, co-written exquisitely by Nomi Isak, is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, INDIEBOUND, iBookstore, Google Books and other vendors. In fact Ellie and Nomi will be doing a book signing at the Valencia Barnes and Nobel on April 5th. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss. The words upon the pages are artful and vividly bring to life the journey of Ellie, the beings in her life, and the developement of The Gentle Farm. It’s a fantastic read and amazing story. I can’t put it down!