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Sterling Twp. Mom-to-be Gives Sanctuary To Animals In Need

December 23, 2018

While heavy with child, she was duty-bound to relocate to a far-off town. In the evenings, she settles her loved ones in stables, where they rest their heads on hay for the night. Soon, she will welcome her first-born son.

Her name is Maura Cummings, and every day she labors to carry her pregnancy to full-term while also working as primary caregiver for the Farmhouse Sanctuary, an animal refuge, on her new property in Sterling Twp. Cummings recently moved to the rural area of Wayne County with her husband, Lee Herman, after facing opposition from neighbors of their former farm in Roaring Brook Twp., who objected to a number of issues related to their rescue.

The couple had been under the impression upon buying the Lackawanna County land that their livestock was legally “grandfathered” in, as the property previously was a dairy farm. The township, however, eventually ruled that some of the creatures at Farmhouse Sanctuary violated a new residential zoning designation. So, with heavy hearts, Cummings and Herman, a diesel mechanic, moved to Sterling Twp. in October to continue caring for the livestock that rely on them.

“When you’re fighting for animals to be free, you dedicate your life, every single minute of the day, to taking care of them,” Cummings said. “They come first.”

Leaving behind their restored 100-year-old farmhouse proved to be not only a hardship because they had to find a place to safely house the animals but also a heartache because of the loving memories, hopes and dreams they poured into their home. The couple had planted a willow tree in the side yard where they were married and imagined their children running through the house and property they had lovingly chosen and rehabbed.

Cummings discovered she was pregnant when the move had already become a necessity. The baby news was a bittersweet revelation — she had lost a much-wanted pregnancy the year before and had subsequently given in to the idea that bearing a child was not meant to be.

“It was a joy to find out, but I was really scared and afraid whether they would stay with us,” Cummings admitted. “But with everything going on, I want to instill that strength, and how to persevere, in that child.

“It was making sure the animals were safe and finding a new home (not only) for ourselves but also where our child could grow up in the mindset of love and compassion for everyone,” she added. “Giving up wasn’t an option. If you stay positive and look for a better day, it’ll come. We all struggle; no one’s life is perfect. But you can’t give up.”

Cummings’ house and the sanctuary barn now sit on 3.5 acres where Cummings has resettled her 10 goats, three dogs, three cats, five roosters, three pot-bellied pigs, three chickens and multiple rabbits. Their harrowing stories range from being rescued from sacrifice in religious ceremonies to others who were up for auction in meat markets or otherwise sold and passed around for breeding purposes. The rescue, which earned nonprofit status in 2016, still requires donations and volunteers to complete the transition, namely to build predator-proof enclosures and additional stalls.

Though rescue requests have been basically non-stop since word of her efforts spread (she receives calls even from out of state), Cummings is not accepting more animals at this time, especially as she will need more help with daily tasks as she nears her due date in mid-March.

“It’s hard to ask for help. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Cummings noted. But as a woman of great faith, she has learned to surrender to the fact that life will always include challenges.

She also looks to those she has rescued for inspiration to find forgiveness, rediscover trust and accept later blessings.

“They’ve saved me, too. It’s the trust factor, in the corporeal sense. Their first moments in life were scary, but now they get to be safe,” Cummings said. “I feel like that’s what’s missing from the world. People try to protect themselves, but really, we’re all in this together. There’s no separation. ... We’re all the same. We all seek protection and love.

“I really wish I could heal the world,” she added. “I just want to make some sort of difference while I’m here.”

Contact the writer: pwilding@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5369; @pwildingTT on Twitter

Meet Maura Cummings

At home: Lives in Sterling Twp. with her husband, Lee Herman. She is the daughter of Terry and Tom Cummings and has a sister, Katie; brothers, Tom and Conor; three nephews and a niece.

At work: Founder and caregiver at the Farmhouse Sanctuary as well as the founder of the annual NEPA Vegfest

Inspirations: Everyday people in the community and kindheartedness

Aspiration: To open a vegan bed-and-breakfast connected with the sanctuary

Diversions: Building things and carpentry, and making art and jewelry

Aversion: Superiority (“We’re all equals,” she said.)

Quote: “All creations are deserving of a life free from fear and pain.”

How to help

The Farmhouse Sanctuary needs volunteers, especially those with carpentry skills, as well as caregivers. Donations can be made payable to the Farmhouse Sanctuary, 1818 Green Ridge St., Dunmore, PA 18509, or done through the donation link at thefarmhousesanctuary.org. Mission Yoga will host three benefit vinyasa flow classes for the Farmhouse Sanctuary. All levels of yogis are welcome on Mondays, Dec. 24, at 9:30 a.m., and Dec. 31 at noon at 1440 Capouse Ave., Scranton; and Dec. 31 at 10 a.m. at 639 Northern Blvd., South Abington Twp. Cash donations will be accepted at the door for each class, though online pre-registration is required. Visit mission-yoga.com.

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