Founded in 1976 as the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch, Inc. to provide: “Exclusively charitable, educational, and the prevention of cruelty to boys, by providing a home, ranch, and training school for underprivileged boys.” The organization was created to provide a non-governmental residential childcare program for children from all 75 counties in Arkansas.
The organization was officially incorporated on January 6, 1976, following more than two years of planning and organizational meetings. A group of sheriffs concerned about the plight of abused, neglected, and homeless children, asked the 75-member Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association (ASA) to assist in the development of a children’s home that would rely basically on the generosity of Arkansas people. The ASA membership voted to create a Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch Committee to research the practicality of establishing a “home, ranch, and/or training school for boys.” One of the decisions made was to involve the business community in forming such a program and rely on the 75 sheriffs for community grassroots support.
Pope County Sheriff Bill Abernathy was the chairman of the Sheriffs’ Ranch Committee and Sheriff Donald Meek (Johnson County) was its secretary. These two men assured the business community that Arkansas Sheriffs would be unanimous in their support. Abernathy, Meek, and other members of the committee, spent three months traveling to every county in Arkansas and meeting with each sheriff to gain his support. At the end of this process, an incorporation document was presented in late 1975 to the ASA containing the signatures of each of the 75 sheriffs.
In January 1976, ASA president Floyd Johnson (Craighead County) announced the creation of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch, Inc. The organization was incorporated in Russellville (Pope County) and the headquarters was established in Jonesboro, Johnson’s hometown.
The initial 28-member Board of Directors was created with sheriffs from Pope, Washington, Franklin, Monroe, Craighead, Woodruff, Polk, Prairie, Benton, Union, Mississippi, Desha, and Van Buren Counties, serving Business members were chosen from Van Buren, Franklin, Craighead, Monroe, White, Prairie, Sevier, Jefferson, Polk, Jackson, Washington, Crawford, Benton, Miller, and Pope Counties.
A search committee was formed to locate a suitable piece of property on which to establish the first campus. After considering “seven or eight pieces of property,” the committee chose a 528-acre site on the White River near Batesville (Independence County). The corporate headquarters was moved to Batesville in 1977. Two young boys (ages 7 and 5) were admitted to the program during construction of the first cottage, which was dedicated by Senator Dale Bumpers on October 10, 1977. In December 1977, the Ranch signed a 10-year lease on an existing facility near Harrison (Boone County) for the establishment of a girls ranch. Initially a sibling group of four boys and one girl was admitted, and another of two girls and one boy. (The organization began doing business as “The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Boys and Girls Ranches” in 1977, but the name was not legally changed until 1998, when the legal name was changed to: Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches.
If the founding sheriffs’ would have only known that 35 years later the program would have helped more than 1,000 children from all over the state. We are very proud to be a part of such a great organization and wish for 35 more years of helping kids to have a place to call Home!