A Season of Thanks: Rise Up Ranch runs on kindness from others

A Season of Thanks: Rise Up Ranch runs on kindness from others

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - To some, filling their backyard with eight tortoises, a brood of chickens, three alpacas, two peacocks and three dogs might seem like a lot.

For Kristin Reece and Jesse Blum, it’s all in a day's work.

Just two years ago, the couple started Rise Up Ranch, a nonprofit animal sanctuary based in the Catalina Foothills. Together, they take in animals from — quite literally — all walks of life.

Through their love nature, the couple transformed their property into a haven for homeless creatures.

It’s a small-but-mighty operation, fit with a chicken coop, neighbored by a pen housing two peacocks named Zeus and Hera. Just beyond the peacock enclosure, three furry alpacas graze on hay and grass in their own personal oasis.

Across the property, the couple set up habitats for a collection of desert tortoises. The larger tortoises, like 75-pound Bob, have their own homes, built by hand, that are integrated into the earth. They enjoy roaming around the property as they please.

It’s a serene dwelling tucked away from city life with a beautiful view of the Catalina Mountains.

But, caring for well over a dozen rescue animals around the clock is hard work.

However, Reece and Blum don’t do it alone.

Every few months, they wrangle family, friends, friends of friends and neighbors to help build different areas of the sanctuary. Whatever the couple has in store for their volunteers, it’s sure to be an all-hands-on-deck situation.

“Our volunteers are such a huge piece … that we are extremely grateful for,” Reece said.

From constructing an alpaca shelter from the ground up or moving hundreds of pounds of rocks from one side of the sanctuary to the other, it takes somewhat of a village to keep Rise Up Ranch running.

Like the animals they’re helping, volunteers come from different backgrounds, but everyone is there for the same reason.

“What they are doing here is so wonderful, in terms of providing an incredible environment for these animals,” Mitch Blum, a volunteer, said. “To be a part of that is gratifying. It gives me a creative outlet but, more importantly, to be able to volunteer time to this wonderful organization is meaningful to me.”

Mitch Blum, who is also Jesse’s father, is the person Reece likes to call the ranch’s “head stonemason.” His work helps lay down the foundation for the animals’ habitats and the sanctuary as a whole.

More than anything, Mitch Blum said helping out at the ranch shows how well a community can come together.

“It’s been a wonderful thing to be a part of and to see,” he said.

Monica Hultquist has been volunteering with Rise Up Ranch since its inception.

As the couple’s nextdoor neighbor, she quickly found out about the couple’s project and knew she had to get involved.

These days, Hultquist doesn’t live on the same block as Reece and Blum but she still drops by to lend a helping hand and building supplies when she can.

“I love animals so much,” she said. “It feels so good to give back. … Being an animal lover, this is how I like to donate my time and resources, to animal organizations. This is perfect for me.”

Even with dozens of animals on their land, the couple plans to foster more in the future. Reece said they are looking into building a new shelter for a pregnant pig who needs a home.

Whatever the couple has in store, they said they hope Rise Up Ranch expands to help as many animals and people as possible.

Without the help of their volunteers, it’s hard for the Reece and Blum to imagine what Rise Up Ranch would be like.

“We would be nowhere near where we are today without our volunteers,” Blum said.

To volunteer visit the ranch’s website: riseupranch.org/volunteer/

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