Adelia Gram’s kind heart drives her passion for bettering the lives of all creatures. As the founder of Gram Rescue Ranch (GRR) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Adelia’s love of dogs has led her development of the nonprofit animal rescue.
Born and raised in Winston-Salem, Adelia attended Salem College, Guilford College and Wake Forest University. She is a dedicated volunteer to those in need, both in her community and abroad, although the majority of her service is currently based in animal rescue.
“My husband, Randy, and I supported Meals on Wheels in Winston-Salem prior to helping animals through Gram Rescue Ranch,” Adelia said. “That’s the other passion we maintain — that no one should be hungry. Our volunteer work with them was a definite precursor to GRR. Randy delivered food throughout different areas of Winston-Salem, and the first time he came home afterwards, he told me about the wide range of people in our city who were constantly hungry. I hadn’t truly realized it before, but many people were in such need that they would ask him if he had just an extra sandwich or apple in his van. So, he started going to the store and buying extra treats, like cakes or sandwiches or candies, and giving them to those people. And, when he came to a home that had a dog, he would give a bag of dog food.”
Adelia said that was one of her personal incentives for GRR, realizing it wasn’t just people who were going hungry, but their animals, too. When Meals on Wheels found out what her husband was doing, they told him he should not be providing the extra food at his expense alone. They then added pet food to their deliveries.
Also, after starting GRR, Adelia said she expanded her volunteer work into Jamaica with the intention of helping animals; however, she soon came to realize the needs of the local people there were far greater, so she also spent time providing other volunteer services.
“That’s just some of the volunteer work I’ve been able to do outside of my community,” she said.
Though Adelia first initiated her animal rescue efforts in November 2006, she said her love of dogs began much earlier: “I’ve always been passionate about dogs. My mother told me that the very first sentence I was able to string together as a toddler was, ‘Uh-oh, there goes the doggy!’ I was keenly focused on them from a very young age, and my passion for them has only grown through helping the ones in need.”
SAVING ONE DOG AT A TIME
While the first rescues of Gram Rescue Ranch took place in 2006 and the following years through Adelia’s personal efforts, she was able to establish the 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2012. She said it became apparent during the first six years, when GRR was not fully established, they would need larger levels of assistance as a recognized nonprofit since their volume of rescues was greatly increasing.
Adelia said part of what influenced her motivation to start GRR was due to the shock she felt after learning new information about animal shelters in 2006.
“In November I came home to visit my mother, and we were watching the local news,” she said. “There was a newscaster who informed viewers of the large number of dogs and cats that were going to be euthanized at Forsyth County Animal Control on Friday. It was the middle of the week when we were watching it, and I looked at my mom and said, ‘We need to go get some dogs.’ So, we went over and grabbed six dogs who were about to be euthanized and took them to a local veterinarian to get their shots and help them find homes. That’s how I got into it as an average citizen, and I really relaxed after that first week thinking that I had solved the problem. I didn’t realize that it was an ongoing, cyclical issue that took place every week.
“But, after learning that, we went back, loaded up another van full of dogs, and it just kept going on like that for the first little bit. After a while, we began to go to the animal control facilities, found homes on our own, and I learned about the efforts it would take to find qualified adopters for every dog. Throughout the past 15 years, we’ve kept true to our original goal of saving the ones in danger of being euthanized. We tend to take in ones who appear to be less desirable or have behavioral or medical issues, and we try to get them the help they need. We are not breed specific, and though we’re called Gram Rescue Ranch, we actually have many dogs in different places — at a vineyard in town, other foster homes and even my own house — until we’re able to find them their own loving homes.”
Since GRR began only after Adelia learned of the desperate need to save dogs from euthanasia, she said she hopes the same drive she has to save animals can be passed onto others.
“As a regular citizen, I did not know that animal shelters euthanized companion animals so regularly until I saw that piece on the news,” she said. “I think many people don’t realize it. The name shelter is a bit deceptive; it suggests that it’s a safe haven for the animals. And it is safe for them the first few days after their arrival, and it is for the cuter and smaller ones who are more likely to be adopted. But the senior dogs, larger dogs, typically even black dogs are much less popular … they all have a harder time being adopted and are therefore euthanized every week in rural counties. There is a definite societal problem of overpopulation for which our lawmakers have not yet come up with a solution.”
Although Gram Rescue Ranch focuses solely on saving dogs in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas, the mission of the nonprofit touches on a much larger issue.
“The overpopulation of domestic animals is an issue globally,” Adelia said. “Seeing it in the U.S. in particular, along with the continuing knowledge that our government does not carry out sufficient assistance to protect their lives, has made it evident that the private sector needs to step in and help. That is why individuals such as myself and other rescues are a necessary step toward endeavoring to save these animals’ lives. Our animal control facilities are often not large or well-funded enough, which is why it is so crucial that the private sector has support from volunteers and donors. Similar to our children and the elderly, these companion animals need our support to live. That is why I feel compelled to help. If every citizen would just do a little bit, our animal control facilities would not be so burdened.”
When reflecting on the first dog she rescued in 2006, Adelia said many of the dogs remain in her heart even after they have been adopted by loving homes.
“On my first trip to Forsyth Animal Shelter, I learned that they have two showcase windows where they put dogs that are going to be put down soon as a last-ditch effort to find them a home,” she said. “The first one I rescued I saw in one of those windows, a 6-month-old puppy named Rusty. He ran away from the first home we found him, so we took him to Forsyth Humane Society. Rusty stayed there for over six weeks, and my mother and I went to see him one day, and he was so forlorn he wouldn’t even take a treat from us. We knew he wanted to leave, but as a Pitbull/German Shepherd-mix he wasn’t likely to be adopted soon. So, we decided to keep him, and he actually lived out the rest of his days on our farm. It was wonderful to see him often and always be reminded of that first group of rescue dogs from 2006, though with most others I’m only able to see a photo every once in a while. That’s definitely the most rewarding and difficult part of animal rescue — fostering and adoption. When I foster the dogs before finding their forever home, they worm their way into my heart very quickly. Becoming attached to such delightful fosters can be so amazing when we find them qualified adopters, though it is simultaneously very very difficult. When the adopters come to pick up their dog, it is hard to let them go, and similar to little children with a new babysitter, at first you see their stricken face as they’re driving away, but by evening they’re in a new home entranced by new toys and interesting stimuli. I’m always very happy when I receive a photograph and see that all is well in their world.”
MESSAGES TO SHARE
Adelia shared she has seen the goals of Gram Rescue Ranch carried out in other areas of the U.S., which has driven her even further to imagine new possibilities for the Winston-Salem area.
“After moving to Austin, Texas, in 2003, our cat went missing,” she said. “When we went to the animal control facility there, I tearfully learned about the same issues of overpopulation I saw more of here in Winston-Salem. But, over the last 17 years, I’ve recognized Austin’s local government carrying out better management of their animals, leading that same facility and surrounding shelters to now be no-kill establishments. It’s so rewarding to see that our efforts really do matter, and there are so many wonderful things to be accomplished for companion animals in our country.”
As Gram Rescue Ranch continues to expand and increasingly benefit dogs in need, Adelia said their need for support in the Winston-Salem area has grown, as well.
“Because we’re a smaller nonprofit, people don’t often know the work we do,” she said. “But I’m hopeful more people will gain awareness of the issue of overpopulation in our shelters and support our mission. My work with GRR has allowed me to be a voice for the voiceless and dedicate myself to bettering these situations of neglect, but we can only make true progress with the help of others. As Gram Rescue Ranch has grown, our financial need has grown, and we cannot continue to do our work at the same level without support from volunteers and donors.”
Adelia emphasized that any benevolent act for GRR can make all the difference, and that she is hopeful people will understand the change possible through their actions.
“To anyone who is considering volunteering with — or donating to — Gram Rescue Ranch, please know that every little bit helps,” she said. “The need is great for these animals. Many are in need of safe homes, and the veterinary care to keep them healthy is increasingly expensive. Through no fault of their own, just for being lost or unwanted, they are being euthanized at an unprecedented rate. Canine love is pure, deep and uncomplicated. By carrying out acts of volunteerism or donating small gifts, you can save the lives of these innocent animals in need and make an impact.”
For more information on how to support Gram Rescue Ranch and its mission, visit GramRescueRanch.org