Emily Hemphill, 13, daughter of Hank and Joey Hemphill of Williamsport, walks into the horse barn at the STAR Equestrian Center on Greencastle Pike in Hagerstown with enthusiasm.
It’s another Saturday — a day that Emily has dedicated to volunteering her time at the stables. Even after accumulating more than 270 volunteer hours in the past year, she wants to keep helping with the horses and riders.
The STAR Equestrian Center has been a part of the community for 13 years and uses its 145-acre campus to provide equine therapy for challenged riders. The center also offers riding lessons and activities for able riders, as well as horse-boarding accommodations.
Emily volunteers three to six hours on Saturdays and during the week if she is needed.
The eighth-grader let her love for horses guide her to the center, where she became a volunteer in October 2010. Emily’s school, Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, requires sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to complete 35 hours of community service each school year.
“When I volunteer, I usually do chores like sweep, feed and bring horses in and out,” Emily said. “I help in lessons with the disabled riders, basically leading horses or side walking next to the people.”
Work orders for the volunteers are written on a dry-erase board with colorful markers.
Serving 120 riders each week, six center employees and 45 weekly volunteers aim to ensure the center is safely and smoothly run, said center Director Ginny Gaylor.
“We could not do anything without them (volunteers),” she said.
Gaylor said Emily is responsible for a young volunteer, and she works well with the challenged riders.
“She handles horses very well,” Gaylor said. “She really seems to have a heart to be here with the challenged riders.”
Over the past year, Emily has grown to love Sierra, a little mustang at the center.
“She can do anything you really want her to. She is fun and really sweet,” Emily said.
During her time as a volunteer, Emily said she has learned to do many tasks, including brushing a horse and helping with the challenged riders.
“I want to keep volunteering because I can learn lots of new things, and it’s always good to volunteer and help people,” she said.
Emily is already looking to the future, keeping her time at the center in mind when she considers college plans. She said she wants to take an equine studies program, with the goal of opening her own barn someday.
With her chores on the board marked complete, Emily said goodbye to her friends — volunteers and horses — and climbed into her mother’s van with a smile on her face.
More information about STAR Equestrian Center can be found at www.starcommunityinc.org/equestrian.