For more than 20 years Melanie Gambrell has been offering a sanctuary for abandoned animals throughout Texas. In recent months that sanctuary has not only been shaken, but had to be relocated due to an eviction notice received by a local oil company.
"The land switched owners a long time ago, more than 17 years ago, after we had already been on the property and made it our home," Gambrell said. "However, after inquiring about buying the land outright instead of making rent payments, I was told it would be sold to me as soon as the sale was complete and full ownership was in the hands of the oil company. A simple handshake - which used to be a binding contract in west Texas - solidified my belief that the land would soon become ours."
From the day of that handshake, the oil company and Gambrell continued a renter - tenant type of relationship. Every month like clockwork, Gambrell sumbitted payment and poured heart, soul and finances into the property, treating it as her home.
"For I don't know how many years now, I haven't had water. I transported my own water to the farm. I made every repair that was needed on the property, not once did the oil company ever set foot on the property, make repairs, or act as a landlord. AFter all these years, and all the money poured in - an amount that has far exceeded the amount to purchase the land - I thought I was home," Gambrell said.
Gambrell is the owner and operator of All Creatures Sanctuary and Rescue. What started out as Gambrell's passion for helping animals and her rescuing a possum - who lived in the trash can at work until she could get off shift to take him home - has turned into more than 50 animals residing with her currently, and hundreds more saved.
"After not hearing from the oil company after all these years, I received an eviction notice saying I had 30 days to get out," Gambrell said. "After several failed attempts of trying to speak with the oilfield company; the original field hand who had made the handshake with us about the property was no longer with the company and it looks like with him went the promise and agreement."
After receiving the eviction notice with the support of a close friend, Gambrell was able to get enough money to fight against the oil company with legal action. However, once again Gambrell was up against another barrier.
"The lawyer we found ended up taking the money we gave him and never did any work, never responded to the oil company, and in the final days of our window of opportunity, he told me it was time to find a new place."
Through the heartbreak and the uncertainty, Gambrell and her roommate - Ted Morally - gathered together a few close friends and loaded up 50 animals, and within a few short weeks, moved more than 20 years of history to a new home.
"While we were lucky enough to have a new place to go becuase my roommate could see the writing on the wall, which I couldn't or chose not to I guess, and purchased land, there was so much that had to be left behind," Gambrell said. "So many of my animals - who were my family - are buried on that 160 acres. Not only did I have to leave them behind, I had to leave so much of what had made our home, home."
While all 50 animals have been relocated to the new sanctuary location, the stress amongst the animals and Gambrell is far from over. With winter right around the corner and cooler temperatures popping up in the forecast, the need for warm housing is becoming immediate. According to Gambrell, she is in need of six more Pet Taxi's, which will be used as housing for the animals throughout the winter months.
"I am still hoping that in the end, the land we called home will be ours again, but at the same time I think our new location is going to be the new Sanctuary," she said. "I have been in this community for so many years and over those years have formed connections, built trust in the community and saved so many animals. I just don't understand how anyone could do this, just take someone's home."
For those who want to support Gambrell in her mission, donations can be made at the GoFundMe account - search Melanie Gambrell - and it can also be found on Facebook or follow the link
If more information is needed, messages can also be sent to Gambrell via Messenger, just search Melanie Carr Gambrell.