When I first started working at The Ranches, it was a summer job at our Hart Youth Ranch facility in Melrose, NM.
A buddy and I wanted to have a summer adventure and being a cowboy on a working cattle ranch seemed like the perfect way to spend a summer. We settled on $300 a month + room and board and so began my first work adventure with The Ranches.
While the cowboy work was mostly long, hot, dusty days, I ended up spending a lot of time with the young men that were living in our program at the time. They were all a bit rough around the edges, but a better group of guys would be hard to find. We worked hard and played hard. We learned a lot and we gave each other a hard time on a consistent basis. One young man that still sticks out in my mind was a kid named Mark. He was big and burly, but had a soft and tender heart. His biggest complaint was that the other guys picked on him. When I explained to him that he was 6’3” and 250 lbs. and that he didn’t need to take any guff from the other boys, he said, “Heath, I could never be mean to those guys. They’re the only family I’ve got right now.” I didn’t really understand that statement until many years later, but it was a great lesson to learn.
Throughout this metamorphosis, my first priority is and has been the kids that we serve. Without them, there is no point to what we do and we are without a mission in their absence. I have spent my first year as the head of this organization analyzing and evaluating our situation and restructuring around the premise that we are here to Rekindle Hope in Today’s Youth.
While it is a catchy mission statement, I see it as a responsibility. Given the opportunity, we have a program and a staff that change lives. We do not simply warehouse kids until they can start their life free of the burden of being under the age of 18. We get to know them, we attempt to understand them and then we work tirelessly to give them the tools necessary to live prosperously without us, or anyone else not of their choosing. This is our mission and I am dedicated to the principle that everything else that we do, must support that mission.
As we begin to emerge from our financial worries, I am thankful that the very best people in our organization have remained loyal and committed to our mission. Many on our team here at The Ranches have put in countless hours to help turn this organization towards the future while retaining the core principles, values and history that make our organization a great place for kids to get a fresh start. We are not out of the woods, but we are in a position of strength where there was only weakness a year ago. As you look over this Summer Corral, and you take note of our new look and design, I ask you to consider the famous line from Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” We are at this crossroad at The Ranches and the efforts that we put into engaging with you in the coming year is reflective of my drive and determination to get busy living.
Thank you for the support that you have given to The Ranches. Every donation is special and every donor is a reminder of our obligation to Rekindle Hope in Today’s Youth.