SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA) — Twenty years ago, Ellie Laks found her calling.
"This is was what I was born to do," she said. "This is who I am, and that put me on the path to my life's purpose."
Laks said she has always leaned on animals for support.
"I grew up with a firm belief that animals were angels among us, and they're here to heal us," she said.
But after converting the back yard of her Santa Clarita home into The Gentle Barn, she's the one giving back.
The Gentle Barn is a nonprofit organization that provides sanctuary to abused, neglected and unwanted animals. The property features large horse and cow pastures, a barnyard for smaller animals, an organic vegetable garden, trees for shade and a panoramic view of the mountains.
The sanctuary is home to more than 175 animals and has saved thousands of animals in the past 20 years.
But beyond saving animals, the sanctuary is also a place where adults and kids alike can connect with nature and interact with the animals.
"People thank me all the time for what I do," Laks said. "And they say it's so wonderful you're saving animals and healing kids and I say, 'Well, the truth is that these animals are healing me every day.'"
From Caesar, a retired movie industry horse, to Peggy, a chicken born with only one usable leg, Laks said the animals teach visitors the importance of empathy and kindness toward all living creatures.
"We all have worth," Laks said. "And we all have value, and we're all deserving of life."
The Gentle Barn is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a farmyard gala on Sept. 28.
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