BERLIN CENTER — Youngstown native Amy Rigby, owner of the nonprofit animal shelter Rebel Rescue Ranch, recalls always being someone her family and friends would contact whenever they had a question about unwanted pets or exotic animals.
It inspired her to start an animal rescue organization.
“I have acquired years of experience caring for exotic pets, so friends and family members would consult me as a resource person when it came to their pets. Eventually, I began taking in their pets when they no longer could take care of them. It was at this point where I arrived at the realization that there was a need for a rescue that took in pets other than cats or dogs,” Rigby said.
In 2018, Rigby officially became a nonprofit under the name Rebel Rescue Ranch in Berlin Center. Before expanding to the ranch, Rigby started in Lowellville under the name Rebel Rescue Ohio. Rebel Rescue Ranch houses goats, pigs, rabbits, ferrets, birds and lizards.
“I quickly realized that the need for taking in exotic and unwanted pets was more in demand and crucial than what I expected. I needed additional space and so that was how I expanded from Rebel Rescue Ohio to Rebel Rescue Ranch. I wanted to provide a place for people to bring unwanted pets that aren’t cats or dogs. I do not take in dogs or cats, but I will work with many dog or cat rescues in the area as well as some organizations such as Animal Charity of Ohio. They have contacted me to take in animals that they normally do not house such as rabbits, lizards or ferrets,” Rigby said.
Rigby said that Rebel Rescue Ranch provides bedding, sanctuary and care for animals . The nonprofit also provides education for anyone interested in surrendering an animal or adopting an animal from Rigby.
“It’s rewarding to see these animals come to me, and I care for them and find them a home,” Rigby said.
Besides a background in rescuing exotic animals, Rigby, a graduate of Austintown Fitch, is a visual artist and has a degree in art education and a bachelor in fine arts, earning both at Youngstown State University.
“When I started going to college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I always had an interest in art and creating. I ended up taking so many art classes, and I was so passionate about art that I ended up getting two degrees. Chris McCullough was my favorite professor. She is the inspiration for my artwork and current mixed media illustrations,” Rigby said.
After graduating from YSU in 2007, she was a substitute teacher in Mahoning County and then taught art classes at the Purple Cat for five years.
Rigby has had her art displayed on multiple buildings in downtown Youngstown such as on the former Cedars Restaurant. Rigby’s art background is another way for her to raise funds to keep her animal rescue going.
“I created a series called ‘Noble Creatures’ that was on display at Noble Creature Cask House in Youngstown. This entire series sold from the patrons visiting the bar. I wish I had more time to create art, but the animal rescue keeps me busy, which is just as rewarding as creating art. I’m always looking for reliable volunteers and help with fundraising ideas,” Rigby said.
Rigby’s current projects are centered on coordinating fundraisers to keep Rebel Rescue Ranch afloat. She said that fundraising before the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, but it’s even more difficult in post-pandemic 2022.
“It’s more difficult now after COVID, due to the fact that people may not have the same job situations or the extra money to donate, but I am always finding exciting ways to raise funds for Rebel Rescue Ranch. One of those fundraisers was an art show I hosted at Art House On Elm in Youngstown during the whole month of September. I hosted this art show with other local artists, who donated their pieces and 100 percent of the proceeds went to Rebel Rescue Ranch. I also had a wine tasting event at the barn at Rebel Rescue Ranch. The upstairs of the barn is a small rental space for events if one wants to host a party,” Rigby said.
On Oct. 29, Penguin City Beer, Rebel Rescue Ranch and Absolut Vodka will host a fundraising event by showing the 1975 classic film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” complete with audience participation. The event is perfectly timed with Halloween and will take place at Penguin City Brewing Company in downtown Youngstown.
“Penguin City Beer contacted me because they knew I was in love with ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and all things Halloween. They knew I wanted to create a fundraiser. We are also having a pumpkin carving contest on Thursday at Penguin City Beer with prizes. These pumpkins will be on display for ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ event on Oct. 29 to help set the mood,” Rigby said.
The pumpkin carving event will be 6 to 9 p.m. at Penguin City Beer, 460 E. Federal St., Youngstown. Only 100 pumpkins will be available, so it’s a first come, first served basis. One pumpkin will be given per person, and participants should bring their own carving supplies. Pumpkins will be judged and prizes will be awarded. They will be on display at Penguin City Beer throughout Halloween weekend and then will be donated to Rebel Rescue Ranch to feed the animals.
The Oct. 29 event will have a $5 cover charge, and doors will open at 7 p.m. with DJ Spruce kicking off the party. The movie starts at 9 p.m. and party bags will be $5, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Rebel Rescue Ranch. There will be Absolut Vodka drink specials throughout the night, giveaways and a costume contest.
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