What is the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, and what do they do?

The Ranch’s mission is to address, remedy and prevent child abuse and neglect by creating safe, healthy and permanent homes for children. In its 40th year, the Ranch provides a healthy home environment filled with emotional support to help each child learn to trust those around them and cope with their emotions, all while learning responsibility and building self-confidence.

The children who stay at the Ranch are known as “Ranchers.” They live with house parents and other children and are given daily chores and responsibilities, many involving care for animals. Each child is also guaranteed a quality public school education, and the Ranch provides all the necessities — school supplies, technological infrastructure and tutoring.

Many don’t realize that the Ranch is a real working ranch, complete with horses and cattle that must be tended to. Currently, the Ranch is in dire need of a new hay barn for its herd of Hereford cattle. The Ranchers are raising this herd themselves, a program that is teaching them discipline, responsibility, safety, respect for animals and the importance of an honest day’s work, as well as valuable animal therapy for the children. It also provides healthy meals to our Ranchers and others that purchase the herd’s 100 percent grass-fed beef!

What is your involvement with the Ranch, and what prompted you to get involved?

I got involved because my husband and partner, Larry Stone, has been on their board of directors for more than 20 years, serving as board chairman for almost a decade. Because of his support to every aspect of the Ranch’s mission and operations, our agency, Stone Ward, has also supported the Ranch. In addition, my nephew actually spent almost two years at the Ranch’s Batesville campus as a 16- and 17-year-old. Today, he has a family of his own and a great job with the federal government. I know it could have been so much different for him had he not been able to call the Ranch home those two years. He is one of the Ranch’s many success stories.

I have also served on the Ranch’s Children’s Award Dinner committee for many years, and Stone Ward supports the Ranch as a pro bono promotion partner for the dinner and other initiatives. The dinner is the organization’s biggest fundraiser each year, and it is an opportunity to showcase the lifelong difference the Ranch makes in the lives of children year round. This year’s dinner honored Ray Dillon and Deltic Timber, as both have contributed to the quality of lives in children in Arkansas in so many ways.

What kind of things do you typically do for them?

The work I do for them is primarily related to the Dinner and to helping them raise awareness for the critical need Arkansas has for homes for children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to go. Right now there are more than three times as many foster children in Arkansas as there are foster homes (5,000 homes vs. 1,500 children), and Governor Hutchinson has deemed our foster care system in crisis. The Ranch provides homes for several of these kids, house parents who love them, counseling they need and the chance to live life like the children they are. The Ranch is also one of few places that accepts older kids and allows siblings to stay together, two of the foster care system’s greatest needs. In fact, about 75 percent of Ranchers are sibling groups.

What has been the most rewarding part of being involved?

Watching what a big difference a small yet committed staff makes every day for kids who have encountered so much pain in their young lives. The Ranch reminds us all that “it is far easier to raise a child properly than it is to repair an adult.”

What has the organization taught you?

The organization has taught me that, for all of us, family is a powerful and positive force in either the ultimate success or failure of our lives.

You can visit the Ranch’s website at YouthRanches.com to learn more about its programs throughout the year or sign up for its e-newsletter for monthly updates. Though the Ranch is fully supported by Arkansas sheriffs, it is not government funded and relies completely on private donations. Online you can make a one-time donation or sign up to be a Hope Builder with a donation of just $25 per month. The organization also has an Amazon Wish List and is an option on Smile.Amazon.com, where you can opt for 5 percent of your purchase price to be contributed to a nonprofit of your choice.