'A huge loss:' Billings nonprofit fears flood damage is too much to overcome
By Charlie Klepps,2023-06-04
A Billings nonprofit called Angel Horses, Inc. was wiped out Saturday morning by floodwater and they are worried that it might force the organization to shut down for good.
The organization, which is 25 years old, allows troubled residents in Yellowstone County to interact with rescue horses, in hopes that it will bring them some happiness. Customers range from cancer patients to elderly people and all of the services are given to them for free.
But now, the property on the west end of Billings that holds all of their animals is a swamp. Angel Horses, Inc. President Jonnie Jonckowski said that it could mean shutting the program down for good.
"It cleared out of here just about as fast as it came in and just left us with the devastation," Jonckowski said Sunday afternoon. "I've been crying since yesterday afternoon, almost off and on all day. It's just such a tremendous loss."
The water completely submerged much of Jonckowski's property. Not only do the animals live there, but she does as well. All of their business operations are ran out of her home and because of the flooding, all of it is destroyed.
"So, we lost everything you need to run a business. I cried all day yesterday and I'll cry today, too," Jonckowski said. "I really still just feel helpless."
Jonckowski estimates the cost of all repairs to be more than $10,000. The flood ruined most of the interior of her house as well as much of the equipment needed to care for her animals.
All seven of the animals are rescues that they adopt before they are sent to the kill pen, giving them a second chance to impact people's lives. Jonckowski said the hardest part about the flooding was watching her animals struggle.
"They were all trying to get out of the water on the lip, but they couldn't get there," Jonckowski said. "To see these guys hurting and suffering after we just rescued them from a horrible situation. Yeah, I hung on the railing and just cried my eyes out."
Jonckowski said that all of the animals were going to be put down for a reason. Most of which have some health abnormalities, requiring them to eat certain food or be separated from other animals — a major reason why the expenses from this disaster are so devastating.
"They require special needs and so honestly, this is going to be huge financial burden," Jonckowski said. "I hope word gets around that Angel Horses is really, seriously in trouble of going away."
A GoFundMe page has been started to help the nonprofit recover. Jonckowski said that while they always run on donations, they're going to need them now more than ever before.
"It's so much bigger than me," Jonckowski said. "Before it was about me. My career, my life, my whatever. This is about everybody else. It would be a huge loss for the community. A huge loss."