After years of planning, Hope Ranch of Missouri will kick off its “Restored With Hope” building campaign with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, March 23, on its property in Stanton.

The public is invited to attend and view the future site of Hope Ranch, which will offer family-style housing, education and counseling for at-risk youth.

The 2 p.m. ceremony will include special recognition of the group’s very first and largest donor to date.

Hope Ranch is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization seeking to “break the cycle” for children who are falling through the cracks, according to Jennifer Hope, EdD, board president and founder.

Hope, a former school administrator for both the Union and Washington public schools districts and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), said she was compelled to “do something” after witnessing the reality of child abuse and neglect in Franklin County.

Hope Ranch will offer safe, family-style homes with effective alternative schooling, comprehensive counseling services, enrichment programming, weekly service learnings and spiritual growth for children and older youth in both the foster care system and others who are simply not succeeding at home or in school, she said.

“Like a cancer, this cycle of abuse, addiction, poverty and despair will continue to spread with devastating results unless we all work together to break the cycle,” she said. “As the number of children within the foster care system continues to grow, specialized resources to help them, especially older youth, are unable to match the need.”

Hope said there is a critical gap in services for youth who are not succeeding in the traditional foster or group home settings.

She has gathered a large group of professionals from education, social services, health care, law enforcement and finance to be part of the change. Representatives from each of these fields are serving on the Hope Ranch Board of Directors and numerous committees, including a retired judge, retired sheriff, doctor, bank board member, retired school administrators and teachers, local business owners and counselors.

Members of the program development committees include staff from local placing agencies for children in the foster care systems, educators from local school districts and licensed therapists specializing in trauma-focused counseling from private practices and local mental health centers.

Collaboration with other agencies has been key in building the foundation of Hope Ranch, Hope said.

Letters of support have been received from the Franklin County Service Providers, FCCRB System of Care agencies, Homeless Task Force, Franklin County Trauma Initiative, Life House, Grace’s Place, area superintendents, physicians and local agency directors.

“This collaboration and support is important because we want to ensure that Hope Ranch is working with other available resources and not duplicating services,” Hope said.

Children will be referred to the ranch by caseworkers, family members, school personnel and other agencies.

Years of Planning

For four long years, Hope said she and her supporters have been quietly working in the background to lay the groundwork to build a firm foundation for Hope Ranch.

This work has included researching evidence-based programs to address childhood trauma and developing effective behavioral management programs.

“We know this is essential in providing high-quality programs, focused on long-term success, for our at-risk youth and ultimately for our community,” she said. “Our board members, as local stakeholders, are committed to do it right or not at all.”

In 2017, Hope Ranch of Missouri contracted with the Holmes, Radford and Avalon firm to conduct a formal feasibility study to determine if members of the local communities would identify a need for a youth residential facility.

“Ninety-two percent of those interviewed felt there was a critical need in Franklin County and 72 percent were receptive to a capital campaign to establish the Hope Ranch,” Hope said.

In addition to program development, the board has been working with Jasper Development, Horn Architects and Wunderlich Engineering to develop a master plan. Hope said the board is grateful for Cameron Lueken’s guidance through the process to receive approval from the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Board to move forward.

In August, the county plan board unanimously approved a planned unit development for the ranch, to be built on Highway JJ, about 1 mile west of Interstate 44 in the Stanton/Sullivan area. The property totals about 195 acres.

“Now, we’re looking forward to publicly sharing our mission, programs and building plans for the future,” Hope said. “We have recently contracted with another local firm, Cochran engineering, to work with Jasper Development, and finalize our infrastructure and building plans.

“We have an aggressive time line in place to open doors and start serving children in fall of 2020,” she said.

Special Events

In addition to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hope Ranch is planning other special events around the county to build awareness for its mission and funds.

Upcoming events include a St. Pat’s Glow Skate Tuesday, March 12, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Nothing Fancy Skating Rink in Union and a Ladies’ Garden Party Saturday, April 13, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington.

Informational meetings, open to the public, will be held in March and April throughout the county.

“The agenda for these meetings will include updates about the Hope Ranch, as well as conducting brainstorming sessions with residents,” Hope said. “Since we will be working with children from throughout the county we are committed to building relationships and collaborating with existing businesses, churches and agencies.

“We recognize that each community has its own flavor, interests and traditions — and we want everyone’s input as we plan our future activities and events in their towns,” she said.

As a true “grassroots” movement, Hope said her board wants to flip the typical fundraising process on its head by giving back as it moves forward to build the ranch.

“We are committed to having a giveback component as part of all of our fundraising events to benefit an existing organization currently serving the community,” she said. “We will be asking for input on this component at our community meetings as well.”

Fundraising

Hope said the steering committee for the capital campaign has several subgroups, including an outreach committee which is talking to individuals and business leaders seeking support, as well as a mission committee that is working with local church groups for collaboration and support.

An in-kind committee is reaching out to local contractors and suppliers, she said, and will plan pre-bid meetings for future bid requests.

A grant committee also is applying for grants, tax credits and other competitive funding sources.

Based on feedback from the feasibility study, the board has decided to build the ranch in stages with the first phase to include two ranch-style homes (one building unit) serving a total of 12 children (with two house parents for each home) and a four-classroom school with the capacity to serve 48 students with counseling offices.

The school will be able to serve children who are not living at the ranch, but would benefit from alternative education.

The completed facility will be able to serve 84 residential students and 125 students in the school.

Total construction costs, including equipment, vehicles and furnishings, for Phase 1 is estimated at $3.1 million.

Hope said the annual operating budget will be approximately $1.06 million with revenues matching expenses.

The ranch will serve children and youth in the 20th Judicial Court which encompasses Franklin, Osage and Gasconade counties.

To learn more about the ranch or to make a contribution, call 636-649-9901 or email to info@hoperanchmo.org.