I could start off saying, there have been lots of changes since we were houseparents here about 4 years ago, but that’s not quite true. There have been some changes, but the mission remains the same – Improve The Lives of At-Risk Children. The Youth Ranches are built on the 4 Pillars of Work, Study, Play and Pray.
A few years ago, the Boys Ranch started accepting girls at the Boys Ranch. It’s now called the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. Another thing that has changed since we were here as house parents is the number of open houses. Instead of 6 houses being utilized, there are only 4. There is a real need for house parents here as well as other staffing needs. If more house parents were here, more houses could be opened and more youth could be served. Houses are set up to be occupied by 10 youth, one set of house parents, and one set up transitional house parents. Currently, there are 3 houses of boys and one house of girls.
Shameless plug here… if you have the heart of a missionary and are willing to serve at-risk youth I know they would love to talk to you. Besides house parents, there are many other staffing opportunities. You can go online to https://www.youthranches.org/ to see what may be available .
The campus at the Boys Ranch/ Live Oak location is over 3000 acres with a full working farm. There are cattle, horses, and a full arena. Besides the 6 houses ready for use, there are two more that could use some updating. There’s a school on campus, a church, a cafeteria, a full-size gymnasium, a full-size pool, an arts and crafts building, nurse and therapist office, maintenance and mechanic shops, and much more. The ranch is also located on the shores of the Suwanee River. The staff works very hard to provide every opportunity to the youth they serve.
It’s been close to 4 years since we were here as house parents. This time we are here as SOWERS. https://sowerministry.org/ . We’re here with 2 other couples helping to prepare for the 64th Annual Open House and Horse Show. This is a really BIG deal for the ranch. It’s a three-day event with the main event on Saturday, February 26, 2022. Due to Covid and hurricanes, they’ve not been able to hold an open house for 2 years. People come from all over to attend this event. Many youth return to reconnect with previous house-mates, house parents, teachers, and staff. Over 187 dry camping sites have been prepared on the ranch and sold out within a very few days.
Preparing for and “pulling off” this event requires “All Hands On Deck”. For weeks ahead staff and cottages have been assigned tasks to prepare the ranch and serve at the open house. SOWERS were able to assist. While the men were making repairs on equipment, repairs in the houses, painting and helping to renovate the intake / reception area, refurbishing some picnic tables, repairing plumbing at the arena and much more, the ladies were busy also.
The ladies deep cleaned two of the vacant houses to prepare for the tours; the Alumni House which is used for alumni meetings and reunions and a guest house. Incidentally, this house was donated back in the early 60s by Elvis. The house was part of the movie set for a movie he starred in called “Follow that Dream”. Ladies also helped with a little landscaping and in the kitchen.
Dave and I had the opportunity to reconnect with two boys that were in our house – M. and J. It was great to see them again. Both have grown and matured so much.
With SOWERS, it’s not all work. One night we went to the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park for dinner and entertainment by two young ladies. They were both still in high school and had great voices. More than likely they’ll be stars someday.
I plan to do another post, or two, with pictures from the Open House and more information about the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park. Below are pictures from our time on this Florida Sheriff Youth Ranch project so far.
I hope you enjoy this blog. There’s more to come.