Chocolate lovers take note: An all-you-can-eat chocolate event is happening in Freeport on Sunday to indulge your every chocolate desire.

Peruse the pecan turtles or the cappuccino meltaways. Perhaps a pan full of chocolate-covered blueberries is more to your liking? The luscious list goes on and on.

Aficionados can feel good about all the excess because it is supporting a good cause — caring for abused and neglected horses in Maine.

Open Gates Equine Rescue in New Gloucester is a small operation run by two women Linda Walker and Deb Hutchins. Both in their 60s, these women have operated on Morse Road since 1998.

Walker and Hutchins believe domestic violence involves more than just people. Pets and farm animals are often caught up in violent relationships in appalling ways. Animals can also be frequently used as tools to keep an abused person in a relationship. Human victims of abuse will usually stay because they know their animals will not be safe otherwise.

And there’s the economy too.

“Back in late 2008 it was just awful,” Walker says. “We had to turn down about 60 horses that needed a place to go. We still get one or two calls a week.”

Open Gates can hold about 14 horses. Walker and Hutchins started the operation and currently have two small barns. One barn is in rough shape and will be lucky to survive another winter. The other barn is eight years old and was added when the couple decided to refinance their home to build it. In 2005 they incorporated the operation into a 501c3 non-profit.

Over the years, the women have testified in court on abused horse cases, as well as visited local schools to try and instill a love for animals in young people.

Open Gates currently requires about $2,000 a month to care for the horses it houses. Earlier this year a call went out to the farming community for hay donations and a few hundred bales came in. But even these donations won’t last.

Recently, Walker has had to dip into her retirement savings to keep things going.

Open Gates hopes the chocolate fundraiser on Sunday will raise enough funds to get them through February or March.

“Between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to be a really good time,” Walker said. “People are in the giving spirit.”

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

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