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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Fire Department employee’s goats go from eating kindling vegetation to helping a local nonprofit

UPDATED: Wed., May 5, 2021

When Amanda Winchell started working at the Spokane Fire Department Training Center, she never thought her love of raising goats would intersect with her job as an office manager there.

But Chief Brian Schaeffer loves to utilize his employees’ unique skills.

“She’s part of our family, and the goats are her passion when she’s at home,” Schaeffer said. “That really resonated with us when we started looking at ways that we can use skills of people across the organization and empower them to do things like this.”

Winchell has been raising goats for about seven years. Last year, Schaeffer asked her to use her goats to help promote their wildfire preparedness and fuel reduction programs. The fuel reduction program in partnership with the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department uses goats to eat vegetation that can fuel fires.

“Our park program with fuel reduction, it’s a symbol … it’s an example of our commitment to the environment,” Schaeffer said.

Winchell quickly agreed, then later that year the Wishing Star Foundation called and asked to use her baby goats in their “Send a Friend a Goat” annual fundraiser.

“I think it’s amazing that they can be out and help these kids that are going through so much medical stuff that they need that extra support,” Winchell said.

Wishing Star is a local nonprofit that offers wishes to terminally ill children between the ages of 3 and 21 in Washington and Idaho. The foundation then supports those children with the After the Wish program that helps them stay connected to peers going through similar struggles.

The After the Wish program helps families after their child becomes a “wish angel” with funeral costs and grief counseling, and sends their parents on a vacation six months after their child’s death, said Cindy Tripp with the foundation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wishing Star also helped provide personal protective equipment, along with meals and transportation costs, Tripp said.

On Wednesday morning, Parks Director Garrett Jones held Honey, a 7-week-old Nigerian dwarf goat of Winchell’s, in front of the Garbage Goat in Riverfront Park after being “goated” by Schaeffer.

Jones was thrilled to get a goat visit, despite Honey breaking free of her leash for a few minutes and running up to the garbage-eating goat nearby.

“I think we’ve found last year really taught us we need to be together,” Jones said. “We’re all in this together, and this is one way to give back.”

Spokane parks uses goats to help control vegetation at Minnehaha Park, Meadowglen Park and areas along High Drive.

With goats and supporting kids, a day of “goating” people around Spokane was a joy for Schaeffer, he said.

“Wishing Star is one of our community partners,” Schaeffer said. “Their mission and their vision aligns with ours.”

The pandemic caused the goat fundraiser to pivot last year to an online event where e-goats were sent to people who then hopefully were inspired to donate.

While the foundation raised about $27,000 last year, the figure was far below the nearly $70,000 they raised the year prior.

This year, Tripp said, they hope to raise $100,000 between in-person goat visits and e-goats. All of the goat visit appointments are filled for the rest of the fundraiser, but virtual goats are still available on the Wishing Star website.

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