The Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama
In the fall of 1966 two boys moved into the first Boys and Girls Ranch of Alabama home, beginning a five decade tradition of caring for Alabama's abused, neglected, homeless and dependent children.
The dream began in the early 1960s when members of the Alabama Sheriffs' Association decided to make a difference in the lives of boys from troubled backgrounds. They decided to build a program that would provide homes for troubled children before they made the decision to break the law.
The Sheriffs adopted the motto "It's easier to build boys and girls than to repair men and women" to illustrate their cause. Over the next few years land was acquired and funds were raised in preparation for the boys. The first home, Tine Davis Hall, was dedicated in February of 1966. By autumn an executive director had been hired and had moved into the Ranch home with his family. A short time later the first two boys moved in with their new house parents.
Within only a few years after the Ranch opened, six houses had been built and all were filled to capacity. The waiting list of needy children continued to grow longer, but space was not available to care for them. The Board of Trustees decided to continue the expansion by opening another Ranch location in northern Alabama. This decision was the beginning of a period of growth that resulted in Ranches reaching from Colbert county in the North all the way to Baldwin county in the South.
Many of these children come from dysfunctional families and some have even been abandoned by their parents, according to Ranch Chief Executive Officer Nick Rauccio. The Ranches are homes for these children, not reform schools or correctional institutions. Up to 10 children live in each Ranch home with a set of house parents they call Mom and Pop.
Over the five decades the Ranches have been home to more than 5,000 children. The program is constructed to provide a Christian family atmosphere for these boys and girls. Special times for family devotionals and pledging allegiance to the flag are held daily to encourage respect for both God and country. Each of the Ranches have chapels where the children and house parents attend midweek and Sunday services as well as churches in their local communities.
Each child has chores and duties to help teach him responsibilities and the value of the work ethic. The children participate in areas of livestock care, farm work, lawn care and vehicle maintenance in addition to keeping their rooms and houses clean. The program is designed to teach these young men and women about responsibility and the value of working and learning new skills.
"We are asking the children to learn something that will help them. We teach them daily skills they can take with them into their adult lives," Rauccio said. These work experiences will help these young men and women feel confident when applying for jobs in the future and give them the head start they need to succeed in life, according to Rauccio.
The Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama is governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of sheriffs' as well as business and community leaders. The operating budget is raised almost exclusively from corporate and private-sector donations as well as fundraising events. "The Ranches are an Alabama charity for Alabama children," said Rauccio.