Sharing the Season 2015: Happy’s Farm

Published 12:10 am Sunday, December 13, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

Three days a week, Mikaela Maines spends her afternoons at Happy’s Farm learning to do what she plans to do for the rest of her life.

Maines, 15, started volunteering at the nonprofit, after-school tutoring facility to help with some of its animals, but she’s content doing this forever.

The shy Carson High School student is but one student amongst the throngs of young children who step foot onto the property, which resembles a Western town.

“It’s a really great place. I love every minute I spend here,” Maines said.

The organization was established by Rhonda Stirewalt, a math and science teacher in the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Her goal was to have a relaxed, Western town setting in which children could receive affordable academic tutoring and child care.

The farm is named after William “Happy” Trexler, Stirewalt’s great-grandfather and the first owner of Happy’s Lake.

Happy’s Farm opened in late 2007 with just three tutoring students. In January 2010, the farm became a nonprofit organization and now has more than 60 children enrolled in the tutoring and after-school program. Happy’s Farm Inc. is located at 985 Parks Road.

Stirewalt has been able to see her dream continue throughout the years with the help of in-kind and monetary gifts from family, friends and the community at large. She’s always grateful, she said, to receive help to add to the property.

She was able to build a kitchen and movie screening room a few years ago with the help of local donors. Stirewalt’s latest plans are to incorporate military memorabilia in a tunnel on the property. If Stirewalt had the funds, she’d include a wheelchair ramp to make the facility more handicapped accessible.

“With the ramp, we’ll be able to reach more children and people with special needs,” Stirewalt said.

She’s recruited James “Gabby” Trexler to create a veterans program. Trexler was a paratrooper in the Army where he served in Vietnam.

“I want children to realize the price people paid for their freedom,” Trexler said.

The plan is to make the program recreational and educational.

Stirewalt said it’s because of people like Trexler and others who’ve given to the organization over the years who “believe in me” that make it possible to continue. Happy’s Farm is one of dozens of local nonprofits who have needs that perhaps they can’t meet on their own.

It is their hope that people in the community may see their needs — be it office supplies, volunteers or monetary gifts — and respond.

“I’m just so grateful. It’s the earthly angels that help me,” Stirewalt said.

She said one of the biggest needs right now is hay and sweet feed for the animals. During the winter months, the power bill can be astronomical so monetary donations would really help out, she said.

“We are wanting to construct a handicap horse mounting platform for special needs children and disabled veterans. So, lumber and building supplies as well as building volunteers would be a dream to be able to make that happen,” Stirewalt said.

For more information and how to contribute to the organization’s needs contact Rhonda Stirewalt at 704-279-5268.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.