Andrea Pfeiffer is a busy woman. She and her staff of six at Chocolate Horse Farm stable 54 beautiful horses, and manage a jam-packed schedule of lessons, training, feeding, grooming and grounds maintenance.

So, tired after a long day some ten years ago, it was with some irritation that she hung up from a phone call with a friend. Andrea had so much on her plate. Why, why, why had she ever told her friend she’d go to The COTS Hour the next morning?

“Begrudgingly,” Andrea says, she showed up.

And the morning changed her life.

Warren Theuret shared the story of how he regained sobriety, housing, human connection and self-respect through hard work and COTS’ help. He talked about his subsequent decision to make helping others through COTS his own life’s work.

“He’s this elegant, well-spoken man who completely captured my imagination,” Andrea says. “It struck me so strongly that morning that I could actually make a difference in someone’s life. I saw that COTS was in the business of saving people’s lives.”

From there, it was a short time before Andrea joined our board of directors. Her family and her business became stalwart COTS supporters.

Luckily for us, Andrea’s never been one to discount the inspiration of the moment. In fact, that’s what led her to found Chocolate Horse Farm.

She’d spent her early 20s training at the British Horse Society. In England, she discovered her flair for teaching and got a job with the British government, training young people for careers in the equine industry. Then she planned what she thought would be a short visit home to Sonoma to help celebrate her Dad’s retirement.

“All of a sudden, my phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting lessons,” she says. “Within two weeks, I was working full-time.” She was also relaxing and feeling at home again, away from class-conscious British customs. She liked the feeling. She liked her prospects.

“I realized I could make a living at this in Sonoma County.” Eventually, she struck out on her own, founding Chocolate Horse Farm in Petaluma. “30 years later, I still absolutely love going to work every single day,” she says. “I’m getting paid to do my hobby.”

Chocolate Horse Farm specializes in the Olympic sport of Dressage, which has its roots in ancient Greek horsemanship and is known for its grace, precision and difficulty.

She doesn’t shy from difficulty when it comes to COTS, either, and as one of our longest-serving board members, her insights are invaluable. Board President Bill Gabbert looks forward to hearing her thoughts and opinions on every proposal that comes forward. “She is a great advocate for COTS because she has a passion to help the homeless,” he says. “We’re thrilled to have her support as an individual and a business owner.”

Andrea says owning her own business has been great preparation for serving on the board. “How are you going to pay for it?” she says. “Is it a sound business decision we can sustain going forward? Those are the types of questions I’m used to asking myself. I ask them all the time at the board meetings.”

In addition to her board work, Andrea has been a great help in our food programs and was renowned for her Sunday night chicken dinners. She’s also been a remarkable budget coach to people in our rental assistance program, a role that it seems she’s been training for all her life.

“My parents had us managing our own money when we were really young. We had an allowance and a check book and you learned pretty quick that you were going to need to save money for the end of the month. If we didn’t have money for pencils or notebooks, my parents didn’t bail us out. We learned.” Andrea helped people sort through their emotions about money—a crucial thing to do for everyone, but especially for those who don’t have much of it—and helped them strategize how to plan and save.

“I was surprised. We talked a lot about gifts and how to show appreciation without buying gifts. People want to show their love. A lot of times in this country, we do that through gifts. And that wasn’t helpful.”

Andrea makes time for COTS “because you want to leave the world a better place than you found it,” she says. “I’m lucky. I know I am. I didn’t have parents that suffered from substance abuse. I was never abused. I work hard, but I think everybody does. All the clients I’ve met at COTS have had that same drive to be valued and to give back. It’s easy to thrive when you’re born under a certain set of circumstances.”

“COTS is somewhere I can make a difference,” Andrea says. “I hope my legacy is being part of a community that ends the need for places like COTS.”

Thank you, Andrea. Thank you, Chocolate Horse Farm.

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