At its recent year-end party, Horses & Horizons Therapeutic Learning Center, Inc. recognized three area residents as outstanding volunteers for 2013. Denise Schafer of New Ringgold was named the organization's Volunteer of the Year, and Amanda Carnes of New Ringgold was honored as "Volunteen" of the Year.

This year, the nonprofit organization instituted a new award, Youth Volunteer of the Year, in honor of the dedicated service provided by Meghan Sfarra, also of New Ringgold.

Schafer has been a volunteer for the therapeutic horseback riding program for four years, and this is her second time as Volunteer of the Year. This year, she volunteered for all three sessions of riding lessons, which ran from the end of April through October.

She served primarily as a horse leader, but also sometimes helped as a side aid. In addition, she readily substituted for volunteers who were unable to fulfill their lesson obligations, and she also helped with fundraisers and special events. Schafer is certified medical assistant for St. Luke's Health Network.

When Schafer is not busy working or volunteering, she enjoys riding her horses with family and friends.

This also was Carne's fourth year as a volunteer at Horses & Horizons, and it is the second time that she has been named "Volunteen" of the Year. Carnes served as a horse leader for all three sessions of lessons.

In addition to helping with therapeutic riding lessons and special events, she regularly assisted with training and exercising the program's lesson horses. Carnes is a freshman at LCCC, awaiting acceptance into the college's Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. She is employed part-time at Cutie Pies and also at Basile's Italian Restaurant.

Sfarra began volunteering for Horses & Horizons four years ago when she was only 8 years old. It was her idea that she and her mother, Denise Schafer, should volunteer. Sfarra's contributions have included helping at all three sessions of lessons, mostly running errands, doing odd jobs, and exercising lesson horses.

This year, by the third session of lessons, she graduated to the role of horse leader for one of the weekly lessons. She is a sixth-grade student at Tamaqua Area Middle School. Her hobbies include riding and barrel racing her horse, Junior, in rodeos sanctioned by the Central PA Youth Rodeo Association and also in the Keystone Barrel Classics.

The purpose of Horses & Horizons' annual year-end event is to show appreciation of its volunteers, and to recognize the achievements of its riders. It was held Nov. 7 at the Zion's Stone Church Hall near Snyders. Executive director Harvey Smith and program director Elaine Smith presented certificates of appreciation to the more than 50 volunteers.

They also presented certificates of achievement to the more than 30 riders.

Horses & Horizons is a registered nonprofit organization, staffed entirely by volunteers. It operates from Harvey and Elaine Smith's Helping Horse Farm, located between Tamaqua and New Ringgold. The center serves children and adults with a wide variety of disabilities. Lessons will resume again in April.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or enrolling a rider can visit www.horsesandhorizons.org [1] or call Harvey or Elaine Smith at 570-386-5679.