ZEELAND — One local business has raised more than $11,000 to support the expansion of an education-based nonprofit.
Critter Barn — a hands-on farm at 9275 Adams St. in Zeeland — serves more than 100,000 visitors each year, with an opportunity to get close to animals through visits or student programs.
But, for now, the farm sits atop a large hill. Parking and access are especially difficult during the busy season, including the nonprofit’s wildly popular “spring fling.”
In an effort to make the nonprofit more accessible, an anonymous donor gifted the organization a 27-acre plot of land at the corner of 80th Avenue and Felch Street in Zeeland Township in 2016.
Since then, Critter Barn has worked to raise $7 million for infrastructure and construction work. The organization broke ground on the new farm in 2019, but work has been significantly delayed by COVID-19 since then — and the nonprofit has another $3.5 million to go.
Maggie Kleinheksel, owner of Tweed Baby Outfitters in downtown Holland, decided to pitch in.
“In June, two of Tweed Baby Outfitters’ customers hosted a dinner to learn about the vision around the new Critter Barn farm,” Kleinheksel wrote in an email. “I was invited to tour the new property and see the plans and construction on the new barn, and to learn about all of the adaptive equipment needed to make the new farm accessible for all ages and all abilities.”
Kleinheksel was impressed by the barrier-free barns, bathrooms and sidewalks, allowing everyone to visit and “experience the wonders of agriculture, farming, nature and nutrition.”
“Immediately, I knew I wanted to lend a hand to help with the development of the new Critter Barn farm,” Kleinheksel wrote. “I thought of Tweed’s kindhearted customers, and knew so many would be excited to back the new Critter Barn.”
Last week, the business donated 15 percent of the week’s sales to the farm, including 100 percent of the revenue from special bundles curated by the Tweed team.
“I began to order products to create barnyard-themed bundles,” Kleinheksel wrote. “I found brands to bring into the bundles from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, California, Tennessee and even Spain and England.”
The bundles — featuring books, decor and foodstuffs — were priced between $100 and $200 and sold to customers.
One particularly special bundle included two of the fundraiser bundles and two pieces of gold jewelry, donated from Yearly Co. in Nashville, where Tweed Baby Outfitters once operated.
The jewelry represented the farm’s planned “Golden Mile,” an 8-foot sidewalk, fully-graded to connect every barn on the property with ease. The “ultimate” bundle sold in less than 19 minutes and supplied a $1,100 donation.
By Thursday, Sept. 16, the business had sold more than 65 bundles.
“The support for this event has been so far-spread,” Kleinheksel wrote. “All week long, we have been boxing up and shipping out dozens of bundles all across the United States. I am so thankful for the success of the fundraiser…and for the generosity I have seen along the way.”
Critter Barn hopes to open its new facility in spring or summer 2022. To donate, visit critterbarn.org/give.