When burglars hit a Jacksonville farm twice in just three days, the community rallied to make sure the farm recovered.
Celestial Farms, located near Jacksonville International Airport, houses rescued farm animals. The farm also provides educational experiences for children in the Jacksonville area.
The animals at Celestial Farms come from a variety of situations ranging from owner surrender to cases of abuse. Celestial Farms Manager Veronica Pasciuto explained one goat, named Gruff, survived a brutal attack by a pre-teen in Orange Park. Gruff can only walk on three legs and his ears are in tatters.
While the farm was created as a sanctuary for animals like Gruff, it was hit by the dark side of humanity in January. Someone burglarized the tool shed twice in three days.
“To know that they came and took every last usable good tool that we had was absolutely heartbreaking, that they could come through twice,” Pasciuto said.
Pasciuto admitted the gate and fence were left unlocked during the first burglary. During the second, however, the thieve(s) broke off the lock on the shed.
That, Pasciuto said, left her concerned for the animals and farm staff.
“If they were able to rip the hasp off the gate, what damage was gonna be next?” she said. “So I was very scared.”
Pasciuto said following the break-ins, farm staff locked the gates every night and got a new, stronger lock for the shed.
As an operation that relies on donations, Pasciuto knew they needed help. She posted her plea on Facebook and was immediately flooded with enough donations to replace nearly all the tools that were taken.
“Even though there are people that make bad choices in the world...there are so many more people that want to help,” Pasciuto said.
While the burglar was never caught, Pasciuto said Celestial Farms is not about holding grudges, it is about helping. That’s what she wished she could have done from the start.
“If they needed help, I wish they could’ve just asked,” she said. “And we would’ve done everything we can to find help.”
Celestial Farms still needs to replace some of their more expensive tools, like tillers and chainsaws. Additionally, it costs about $1,000 per month just to feed the animals. If you want to donate, click here for more information.