Jim and Melissa Pankas started Ohana Aina LLC (Hawaiian for “Family Land”) in early 2015, when their neighbor approached them about purchasing their 25-acre farm located at 24240 James Monroe Hwy in Aldie, which included a small horse barn, well, generator (no electricity), a few paddocks and dressage outdoor riding arena.
At first, they were not sure what they wanted to do with the property, however, it was important to them to preserve rural land, to fit in their local surroundings and provide an opportunity to support/give back to the community. After pondering the options, they felt that keeping the focus on horses would be a great way to support Virginia’s strong equine heritage. Even though they had no previous horse experience, and no one in the family rides, they started the journey towards building a year-round equestrian facility including a brand new 32,000 sq ft. state-of-the-art indoor arena, impressive stables and beautiful green paddocks.
Melissa was born and raised in Hawaii and the facility was called Ohana Equestrian Preserve as a way to honor Melissa's parents, John and Tess Jubinsky, whose generosity made Ohana possible.
In October 2019, the Pankas’ purchased an additional adjacent 56 acres. They then decided to place the entire property into Conservation Easement. In December 2020, they officially signed the deed of gift of conservation easement of the now 81 acres owned by Ohana Aina LLC with the Land Trust of Virginia. On October 2022, this was further bolstered, when the Pankas’ completed an approximate 21 acre “nutrient bank” approved by the VA Dept. of Environment Quality: A reforestation program with the goal of improving water quality and further protecting the land in perpetuity.
In January 2020, the Ohana Preservation Foundation became an official 501©3. It was started by Melissa Pankas as a way to serve vulnerable children through the sharing of open space and the healing power of horses, horticulture and art. In addition to this, the Aldie Conservation Fund was developed with a mission to protect the rural landscape, historic properties and farmland in Aldie and the surrounding area through education, financial and technical assistance.
Over the past two years, Ohana Preservation Foundation’s free programs have exploded with over 1,000 participants in 2022-2023. Not only has Ohana reached the children who truly need help, but the surveys also show that the foundation is making an impact in the lives of their siblings and caregivers as well. The goals to reduce stress, encourage healthy coping and expression of emotions, and create a connected community are being accomplished in a deep and meaningful way.
Ohana Preservation Foundation has created a peaceful, fun and healing natural space that is far away from the distractions of the digital world our children are exposed to. As C.S. Lewis wrote many years ago, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” For children and families facing the unimaginable, the foundation takes this responsibility seriously as well. In Hawaiian, Ohana means family, and it carries with it a commitment or obligation to care for each other.
Ohana Equestrian Preserve allows Ohana Preservation Foundation to host its programs on-site at no cost and Melissa volunteers all of her time for free. Please contact Ohana Preservation Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.