Gourmet Guru Grill Giveaway
05/27/2020

We are very excited to offer an opportunity to win this beautiful new Gourmet Guru Grill while benefiting the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches!

Details: For every $10 you donate to the Ranch through this special link, you will be entered to win this Deluxe Grill and Metal Rolling Cart from Gourmet Guru Grills. For every $25 you donate, you will receive three (3) entries. Drawing will be held on Friday, June 19, just in time for Father’s Day! Click here to make your gift today

The Deluxe Gourmet Guru Grill comes with a handy Metal Rolling Cart, and together they retail for $948! The Deluxe Gourmet Guru Grill is a beautiful ceramic charcoal grill that distributes heat evenly so that whatever you cook comes out grilled to perfection! The Deluxe Grill combines a grill, a smoker and a brick oven for a variety of applications, and it also includes a lifetime warranty.

THANK YOU! to Intimidator UTV and Gourmet Guru Grills of Batesville for donating the Gourmet Guru Deluxe Grill and Metal Rolling Cart to raise support for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches.

Don’t miss this opportunity to win a beautiful Gourmet Guru Grill, while supporting the mission of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. At the Ranch, we provide homes for some of Arkansas’s most vulnerable boys and girls. Your gift today can truly make a difference in the lives of the children we serve. Click here to make your gift today!

 

Spring brings hope in the midst of COVID-19 at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch
04/30/2020

It’s officially springtime at the Ranch! Children are playing in the yards and fishing at the pond. Shouts of joy ring out. Green leaves, bright buttercups, and pink roses bask in the sunshine.

But while the Ranch appears beautiful, the Ranch staff remain aware of the serious health crisis we are living through. We’re keeping the Ranch running during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are challenging times for all of us.

The children who call the Ranch home have already lived through their own trauma, child abuse, abandonment, and separation from their biological parents. Now they’re experiencing more uncertainty regarding the future. Along with other children in the world, they are isolated from friends and must complete school remotely. We are very proud of our Ranchers’ resiliency.

We’re providing these boys and girls with critical emotional support, coaching them through completing school work at home on the Ranch campus, and allowing them to get their energy out through plenty of outdoor play time.

Immediate needs at the Ranch during COVID-19

We truly need your help and financial support more than ever. As an organization that relies on charitable gifts to operate, we cannot make it through this pandemic without you.

Each house is practicing social distancing. Houseparents work around the clock to keep children fed, healthy, safe, loved, and calm. With children at home more often, we have increased house budgets temporarily. This will allow us to provide additional:

  • meals, snacks, and drinks
  • sports and fishing equipment
  • hygiene items
  • cleaning supplies
  • games and activities
  • personal care items
  • books

Can you help meet these immediate needs by making a gift today? With your generous financial support will make it through this time of uncertainty together.

The bright side: Spring highlights at the Ranch

Even during trying times, we continue to help children find hope in daily life at the Ranch. Here are some spring highlights and wonderful moments at the Ranch.

  • 8 Ranch supporters pitched in to raise $600 in 48 hours to provide Easter baskets and pizza parties.
  • One of our Ranchers, living in our transitional living home, turns 21 in June. He recently bought his own vehicle and works full-time. We’re very proud of his responsible choices.
  • The Ranch added 30 adorable baby calves to our cattle program this spring.
  • A local photographer donated her talent to take beautiful pictures of our graduating senior.
  • 6 of our Ranch boys and girls caught a fish for the very first time!

These moments of growth would not be possible without friends like you! This spring, and always, we are grateful for your help as we build better lives for the children who call the Ranch home.

When you give to the Ranch, you build hope. You change lives.

ASYR Staff spotlight: Kirsten Harvey
04/24/2020

Each staff member at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches (ASYR) makes a big impact on the children  who call the Ranch home. Kirsten Harvey, Transportation Coordinator and Receptionist, is no exception. Kirsten began working at the Ranch on February 3, 2020.

Kirsten Harvey Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches ASYRAbout Kirsten

Before joining the Ranch staff, Kirsten worked at Sherwood Urgent Care for over two years as a medical assistant. Prior to that, she worked at a pharmacy as a pharmacy tech. These positions not only helped her build experience in billing and administrative skills. They also helped her become a customer service expert. She gained understanding in how to maneuver difficult conversations and interactions, too.

In addition to her experience in the medical field, Kirsten has worked directly with children. She worked in childcare settings for three years. Working behind the scenes to help children who call the Ranch home feels fulfilling to Kirsten.

“Several factors influenced me to accept this position. I desired the opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge in a different atmosphere. The location of the ranch is close to home. Finally, after completing my interview, I felt this was the position best suited to my future goals,” Kirsten shares.

What Kirsten does at the Ranch

At the Ranch, Kirsten wears multiple hats, as do all Ranch staff members. She corresponds regularly with the Department of Transportation and maintains proper documentation for Ranch vehicles and drivers. Kirsten enters data, processes mail, and helps maintain the donor database. In addition, she communicates regularly via phone and email with donors, community members, houseparents, and others who have questions and needs.

Emily Ives, Business Manager at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, serves as Kirsten’s manager and collaborates with her on a daily basis.

“Kirsten is a ‘Get It Done’ type of woman. When she starts a project, she makes sure everything is done correctly and in a timely manner. She also anticipates things we need to do which I really appreciate.  She is a pleasure to work with and helps me keep my head on straight,” Emily dotes.

Kirsten shared that she “loves it here at the Ranch! It truly is a blessing being able to come to work everyday doing something you love to do. Working with great people is my favorite part. Everyone is positive, encouraging, and love what they do.”

Kirsten’s dream for children at the Ranch

When asked what one additional gift she would like to give to the children at the Ranch, she paused.

“The Ranch provides the children who live here with everything they need. But if I could wish anything, it would be that the children here had home lives that would have prevented them from having to come live at the Ranch in the first place,” she reflects.

Kirsten’s caring heart is what makes her such a perfect fit for the Ranch.

The next time you call the Ranch, maybe your interaction with Kirsten will be a little sweeter knowing more about the person behind the voice on the phone.

Thank you for your continued support in ensuring that children at the Ranch have safe, secure, loving homes. To donate to the Ranch today, click here.

 

This article is the first in a series of staff spotlights featuring staff members and describing the roles they play here. 

ASYR hosts virtual spring art sale
04/16/2020

The history of art: How ASYR acquired collections

Big Orange Daisy by Lynn Donoghue

Big Orange Daisy by Lynn Donoghue

What pairs better with spring time than beautiful, bright flowers and plants? We thought this, too, when opening a box of lovely botanical prints donated by longtime Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches’ board member, Brent Stevenson. Stevenson currently serves as Board Secretary/Treasurer.

Pamela Stagg

Dwarf Amaryllis, Pamela Stagg

Stevenson donated several amazing collections of prints to the Ranch in 2014. The Ranch staff recently identified a large print to frame and display above the fireplace mantel in the newly renovated lodge next to the administration building. Wedding parties, organizations, and corporations will be able to rent the lodge with all proceeds supporting the Ranch. With the exception of a few pieces framed on campus, the Ranch will sell the remaining artwork to support the children who call the Ranch home.

About the artwork, artists, and auction

The first collection we unwrapped of numbered, original prints, features three renowned female artists: Pamela Stagg, Lynn Donoghue, and Adriene Veninger. All three artists gained reputations for featuring natural landscapes and botanicals in their paintings and photography. Veninger’s “Flora and Fauna” collection has been displayed at the National Gallery of Canada since 2012.

We are hosting a 10-day art auction on eBay to raise funds for the Ranch. The botanical prints collection, featuring works by Donaghue, Stagg, and Veninger, is listed until April 26, 2020. These exclusive numbered, original prints from three renowned artists have appraised for $150 to $285 each. We priced pieces to move quickly. We hope you will purchase artwork from these three botanical print collections in celebration of spring and Mother’s Day.

Floral #2 by Adriene Veninger

Floral #2, Adriene Veninger

Stay tuned for more virtual art sales in months ahead from the ASYR. Please share this article and our eBay auction site link with art connoisseurs you know.

We hope you are doing well as we move forward into warmer, brighter days together.

From all of us at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches,

Thank you for your continued support.

Capturing one Rancher’s beauty: Local photographer highlights senior year
04/02/2020

Alexis* twisted one long braid, silently perched atop a chair in the lobby of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches’ administration building. She bit her lower lip and sighed.

“Are you excited about getting senior pictures made?” A staff member asked.

She nodded slowly. She fidgeted with a scarf she held, fraying its edges between her fingers.rabbit Harmony Brookshire photography

“I just brought this because I think it looks like something you wear for senior pictures. I don’t wear this in real life,” she admitted.

Her shoulders relaxed when a minivan arrived a few moments later, a tall, slender woman sporting a large camera case, walking confidently toward the door.

“Are you Alexis? I’m Harmony, your photographer. Are you ready?” Harmony extended her hand and smiled. Alexis returned the smile and followed Harmony, waving at us as she wandered off toward the barn to find her favorite bunny to feature in her senior pictures.

Ranch-raised students

Alexis, like many Ranchers—children who call the Ranch home—came to live at the Ranch years ago. After living in traditional foster care, Alexis and her siblings arrived at the Ranch apprehensive about the future and uncertain about their surroundings. After months of stability, support, and therapeutic foster care, Alexis began to relax. She built relationships with staff and her fellow Ranchers and even enjoyed herself. Over the years, the Ranch became more than a place to live. It became home.

The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches provides family-style foster care to about 60 children per year on its nearly 600-acre campus near Batesville, Arkansas. The children who call the Ranch home stay for varying lengths of time depending on their needs and whether they find forever homes. For those who stay at the Ranch for many years, the Ranch becomes an incredibly loving, secure haven.

The Ranch staff work hard to provide for the children’s needs and wants. Staff provide program services and transportation, collaborate with community partners, seek donations, and recruit volunteers. The Ranch’s Assistant Program Director, Errica Pruden, recently sought a local photographer to donate a special on-site senior photography session for Alexis. Within hours of posting the request, Harmony Brookshire of Brookshire Photography offered to help.

Harmony Brookshire: Making clients feel special

Harmony divulged that she loves talking to senior high school students, asking them what kind of look they are wanting and going for.

“I ask them about their interests/hobbies to see if they want to incorporate those things in their photos because this is for them! I love images taken outside in beautiful, natural light,” Harmony explains.Brookshire Photography Harmony Brookshire

Harmony tries to shoot senior photo sessions in locations they love or think would be fun. She looks for locations which might match the client’s personality. Simple and classic poses, designed to generate feelings of confidence and comfort in front of the camera, are Harmony’s favorite.

“When clients feel confident, photographers get genuine, beautiful smiles. I want their experience with me, as the photographer, to be one they remember as being fun and comfortable,” she adds.

Harmony began her photography business two years ago. What began as a real estate photography business quickly expanded into portrait sessions and other aspects of photography.

“Now I love photographing families, newborns, couples, weddings, seniors, while still assisting real estate agents. The variety keeps me on my toes and allows me to be creative. I meet so many amazing people I would never interact with otherwise,” Harmony shares.

More than photography: Using her gift to serve

Harmony and Michael Brookshire

Harmony Brookshire & family, 2019

Harmony enjoys using her gift of photography to serve others. She volunteers as a photographer periodically for her church, Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville. As a former teacher, Harmony has always had a soft spot in her heart for children—especially children in foster care—so she jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches.

“I really wanted to show Alexis how special, beautiful, and loved she is. And if that was something I could do by taking photos, I was in,” Harmony says.

In addition to managing her photography business, Harmony invests her time in her family as a mother of four boys. She and her husband, Michael, celebrate 14 years of marriage in May. Harmony and her family love being part of the Batesville community. We at the Ranch believe the Batesville community is lucky the Brookshire family is part of it, too.

 

Are you an expert in your field or industry? Do you have a talent or skill you’re willing to share with Ranchers or a product you can donate through your business? Let’s talk about how you can volunteer, get involved, or give to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches today.

*Alexis’ name and personal details have been changed to protect her identity.

 

Help children at the Ranch celebrate Easter
03/09/2020

Spiritual growth for Ranchers

Arkansas church

Did you know that children who call the Ranch home attend church every Sunday? It’s one of the basic requirements for admission at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. Each child age 6-17 at the Ranch agrees to attend church weekly with their houseparents. If a child already prefers a particular denomination, the Ranch staff do their best to help the child attend respective services. Many Ranchers cite regular church attendance and spiritual growth as one of their favorite aspects of Ranch life. Not only do they learn about spiritual matters and gain insight into the meaning of life, but they also have opportunities for service and community fellowship. The Ranchers love Sunday School and youth group activities, building great friendships with their church friends.

When the sheriffs of Arkansas founded the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches in 1976, they dreamed that children in need would be able to have a place to call home. But more than just a place to lay their head at night and three meals a day, they dreamed that children would find stability, love, and purpose. And that’s exactly what Ranchers find at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. Attending church is just one way Ranch staff ensure that children at the Ranch find joy and meaning.

Easter at the Ranch

Because Ranchers participate in church services regularly, they understand the true meaning of the Easter holiday. They certainly enjoy Easter eggs, bunnies, baby chickens, and candy. But they also appreciate the spiritual truths behind the commercial hubbub. Easter is a season of rebirth and renewal; a time when seeds planted in the earth die and sprout anew. It’s a time of new life. This is exactly what children who call the Ranch home experience, so Easter is a big deal around here.

Each year, our houseparents have traditionally crunched numbers to find a way to provide Easter baskets for Ranchers. With tight budgets, this is no easy task. The cost of providing Easter baskets for eight children (the maximum number of children in one family-style cottage at the Ranch) is $200. Yet houseparents always go out of their way to ensure that holidays do not pass by unacknowledged at the Ranch. For children who come from unstable, traumatic backgrounds, it’s pertinent that they experience life in a new way. It is important that they have “firsts” full of wonder and excitement rather than dread and pain.

Help Ranchers celebrate Easter

This year, we’re trying to help houseparents build happy memories on Easter Sunday. We’re asking kind-hearted community members to donate an Easter basket full of goodies. Or, if you would rather donate cash and allow us to build a basket for you, you can donate $25 per basket.Easter basket

We need 26 baskets (or $650) to provide current Ranchers with special Easter baskets. Baskets should be for boys and girls ages 6 to 17. Below is a breakdown of needs per gender and age group:

Female baskets: 1 ages 5-9, 3 ages 10-13, and 7 ages 13+.

Male baskets: 2 ages 5-9, 7 ages 10-13, and 6 ages 13+.

Would you like to make Easter special for one of our Ranchers?

Drop off your $25 donation or a furnished Easter basket at any Citizens Bank location in Batesville or Southside from now through April 6. Bank employees will be ready to accept your donations. Thank you, Citizens Bank, for your help in this effort!

Click here to make a one-time or monthly contribution or find out how to volunteer at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch.

Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches nominated for 32nd Annual Arkansas Business Nonprofit Organization of the Year award
02/11/2020

Nancy Fulton, CEO of Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth RanchesArkansas Business recently announced nominations for the 32nd Annual Arkansas Business of the Year Award. Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches made the cut! ASYR earned nomination for the Nonprofit Organization of the Year award.

About Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches

Nancy Fulton, CEO of ASYR, expressed her excitement when she learned of the nomination.

“The Board of Trustees, staff, and I feel humbled to be nominated for Arkansas Business’ Nonprofit Organization of the Year. The other nominees represent phenomenal organizations. Being included with the other nominees brings us such a feeling of honor and pride.  At ASYR, we commit fully to the well-being of Arkansas children and appreciate being recognized for our work,” Fulton stated.

In order to be considered for nomination, organizations must cite examples of significant impact. Nominees embrace and exemplify growth. The nominees regularly collaborate with partners, including other nonprofit organizations, agencies, and community members. And finally, nominees serve as leaders in their respective fields or industries.

girl barn farm Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth RanchesThe Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches also recently celebrated nomination for the Batesville Chamber of Commerce’s Community Collaboration Award.

The Ranch has served as an integral part of Independence County since 1976. ASYR continually builds partnerships with organizations, agencies, corporations, and individuals. These partnerships help ASYR fulfill its mission. ASYR provides a place to call home for Arkansas children who have been abandoned, abused, and/or neglected. The ASYR provides a loving, safe, and healthy place to call home. But it doesn’t stop there. The ASYR also provides therapeutic services, educational programs, and fresh air and fun on its nearly 600-acre campus.

The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches relies on private funding. The ASYR retains strong community support in its local community and beyond.

Nominees for the Arkansas Business Nonprofit Organization of the Year award

Five organizations earned nomination for the 2020 Nonprofit Organization of the Year award. Other nominees include: Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals (CARE), Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, Thea Foundation, and Women and Children First. In 2019, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance won the Nonprofit of the Year Award.

The Arkansas Business Awards dinner will be held on March 11 at 7 p.m. at the Marriott Ballroom in Little Rock. We look forward to celebrating with other nominees.

 

Want to help the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches provide a loving, safe place to call home for Arkansas children in need? Join our group of committed supporters as a Hope Builder.

You can still make a difference in 2019
12/30/2019

As the year comes to the end, we reflect on some big wins for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches in 2019! 

  • Photo courtesy of www.amandafarris.org

    Nearly 60 children found a home and hope for a brighter future at the Ranch.

  • Two Ranch Seniors graduated from high school.
  • We had over 3,000 visitors to the Youth Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
  • Ranchers continue to help on the farm with new animals and a growing herd.
  • Many people celebrated weddings and special events at the Ranch’s events center and chapel.
  • We celebrated lots of birthdays, and our Ranchers had a wonderful Christmas!

But none of this would have been possible without friends like you investing in our mission!

Your year-end gift will help the Ranch finish 2019 strong and put us on a firm footing going into the New Year. Click here to make a year-end contribution.

Because the ASYR is almost entirely privately funded, we rely on support from friends like you to provide homes for children each year.

HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO SUPPORT THE RANCHES AT YEAR END:

•  Click here to make a year-end gift or set up a monthly Hope Builder contribution. As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, all gifts made to the Ranches are tax deductible within the extent of the law.

•  Give by check. By far, the majority of the gifts received by the Ranches are by check. Checks made payable to ASYR may be mailed to PO Box 3964, Batesville, AR 72503. Postmark by December 31st for 2019 tax credit.

•  Give by phone. You can make a one-time gift or set up a monthly Hope Builder gift over the phone by calling 870-793-6841, ext. 300.

•  Spread the word. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share the ASYR with your friends.

•  Donate gifts of stock or property. The Ranches can accept a variety of noncash gifts including appreciated stock or property. Contact Matt Cleveland at 501-940-3440 or matt@youthranches.com to learn more.

•  Make a special tax free gift via IRA. For those aged 70½ or older, you can make tax-favored charitable gifts from traditional and Roth IRA accounts. Click here, or contact Matt Cleveland at 501-940-3440 or matt@youthranches.com to learn more.

•  Set up a personal visit. If you have other ideas for a special gift to benefit the Ranches, let us know. Contact Matt Cleveland at 501-940-3440 or email matt@youthranches.com to set up a visit today!

Your year-end gift to the Ranches is an investment in Arkansas’s future. Every gift, no matter how large or small, is truly appreciated and is used to provide for all costs associated with raising a child. Together we can make a difference in the lives of even more children in 2020!

Wishing you and yours a New Year filled with love and kindness, from all of us at the Ranches!

#GivingTuesday 2019
12/04/2019

***Post #GIVINGTUESDAY UPDATE***

MANY THANKS! to everyone who made a gift to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches on #GivingTuesday.

With your help, along with our partners at Citizens Bank and White River Now matching and encouraging contributions, the Ranch had a record-breaking day of giving, raising almost $49,288 to support our mission!

As an organization that is more than 90% privately funded, this is a HUGE blessing, and we are truly grateful for your help providing homes for some of Arkansas’s most at-risk boys and girls.

If you missed Giving Tuesday, there is still time to make a difference with a gift before the year ends!

In 2019, the Ranch has been home to nearly 60 children. Some have been abused and neglected. Others have come from families in crisis. All of them simply needed a safe, loving home and have found that here at the Ranch.

Your gift on Giving Tuesday and every day truly makes a difference. You, our compassionate friends, are changing the trajectory of these young lives, many who come from situations that seemed hopeless. At the Ranch, they have found hope and healing.

Your year-end contribution will help us continue this important work.  Click here to make a life-changing gift today!

If you have questions about the Ranch’s greatest needs or would like assistance with your gift, contact Matthew Cleveland at 501-940-3440 or matt@youthranches.com.


After Thanksgiving, #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, we celebrate #GivingTuesday! This special day shows that holidays can be about both giving and giving back.

And this year, Citizens Bank is giving back in a big way! For every dollar you donate to the ASYR during #GivingTuesday, December 3rd, Citizens Bank will match your gift dollar for dollar up to $5,000!

TODAY ONLY! This #GivingTuesday, you can double the impact of your gift to the ASYR by making an online donation or by dropping your gift by at any Citizens Bank location on Tuesday, December 3rd.

Here are some ways YOU can help the ASYR receive the entire $5,000 matching gift from Citizens Bank on #GivingTuesday: 

  1. Make an online donation by clicking here
  2. Text the word ranch to 41444 or call 501-940-3440 to make a gift of any amount with a credit or debit card.
  3. Drop your donation by any Citizens Bank location. We will be having a community cookout at Citizens Bank’s headquarters located at 655 South Saint Louis Street in Batesville on #GivingTuesday, so stop by and have some lunch with us! Your donation for lunch will also be doubled!
  4. Help us get the word out about Citizens Bank’s $5,000 matching gift! Share this page with a friend via email, text, or social media, and ask them to join you in making a gift.
  5. Follow @YouthRanches for social media updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share posts with your friends.
  6. Stop by The Pinto for lunch in downtown Batesville for lunch, and $1 of every lunch special will be donated back to the Ranch!

Give a Child the Gift of Hope

Since 1976, the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches have provided hope and healing for children who, through no fault of their own, need a place to call home. Your gift to the ASYR on #GivingTuesday supports our mission of providing homes for some of Arkansas’s most deserving children. To learn more about how you can support the ASYR, contact Matt Cleveland at 501-940-3440 or email matt@youthranches.com.

 

Become a Hope Builder with a monthly contribution. 

For the cost of a fast food meal, you can help change a child’s life. If everyone who reads this would give just $10, we will exceed our #GivingTuesday goal!

A contribution for as little as $10 per month can help provide for things like:
•  New shoes for our boys and girls
•  An allowance for a child
•  Caps and gowns for our graduates
•  Birthday gifts for our children
•  Feed for goats, chickens or other animals on the Ranch
•  Salary for our loving houseparents
•  Groceries for our cottages

Become a Hope Builder by committing to a monthly contribution. It’s a simple, secure way to provide consistent support to the ASYR all year long. Click here to support today!

 

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSOR:
Logo_New_Tag-v4

Many thanks to Citizens Bank for providing the matching gift to encourage giving on #GivingTuesday!

Thank you to White River Now for being our media partner for #GivingTuesday. Tune in on December 3rd for live broadcasts throughout the day!

High Profile: Nancy Fulton brings empathy, practicality as leader of Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches
09/23/2019

Fulton’s job involves being an advocate for the 32 children who live at the ranches

Originally published in the September 22 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette High Profile section by Debra Hale-Shelton and photos by John Sykes, Jr.

BATESVILLE— Nancy Fulton’s life is full of work, hobbies and family, from her husband and children to the dozens of young people who live on a rural Arkansas ranch.

As executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches since October 2013, Fulton oversees the 600-acre working ranches that currently are home to 32 boys and girls, ages 5 to 20. Many of the children there have been abused or neglected and might otherwise be in state foster care.

In six years, she has guided the nonprofit, mostly a privately funded operation, from one with financial struggles to one with a savings for the first time in its 43-year history.

“Nancy is a great administrator and leader with a big heart,” says former Gov. Mike Beebe, who will emcee the ranches’ annual fundraiser, this year set for Oct. 16 at the Little Rock Marriott.

At 61, Fulton has brought practicality but also empathy and compassion to the position, which she first declined but changed her mind after visiting the site near the community of Bethesda, just west of Batesville in Independence County and on the banks of the White River.

“I thought about it a long time, and I said, ‘OK. This is my chance to go and help these hearts and souls and minds that have been through terrible trauma,’” she recalls in her ranch office overlooking green fields and large, aging trees.

“We get them [the children] treatment, but we also surround them with predictability and love and the opportunity to be a child again,” Fulton says.

The ranches usually take in children ages 6 to 17 but often accept siblings, resulting in some children as young as 2. They can stay at the ranch up to age 21.

Some children come from parents who are “in crisis … and need a safe place for their child to live.” Others come from grandparents who are no longer physically able or don’t have enough money to care for them. Always, the children go to the ranches at no charge to their families.

Fulton recalled her previous work with families in which some foster parents “didn’t really have a true understanding of what was going on with the children or how to help them.” But education and personal experience have helped her understand the struggles the children face.

A PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING OF ABUSE

Born in Louisiana, she moved with her family to Clarendon in Monroe County, part of Arkansas’ Mississippi Delta, between the eighth and ninth grade for her stepfather’s job.

Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches CEO Nancy Bradley Fulton – Photo by John Sykes Jr.

“And so I became an Arkansan and have been one ever since,” says Fulton, who lives in Hot Springs with her husband of two years, Greg Fulton, a retired mathematics teacher who taught high school and Henderson State University courses. Greg is now an adjunct teacher at Henderson. The couple connected online, though she already knew who he was because he had been her daughter’s algebra teacher years earlier.

Nancy Fulton was talking about her youth when, abruptly but with a slightly nervous voice, she says, “OK, well, I’m going to go back and say, I was sexually abused as a child.”

The abuse began when she was 7 and ended at 12.

“The perpetrator quit, but I didn’t tell my family so I carried that secret and that burden” and felt “a great deal of fear and sadness until that person died,” she says.

Though she had “difficulty connecting with people emotionally,” she excelled academically despite feeling ashamed and broken. She began noticing that others who had been traumatized sometimes developed addictions or other problems.

That observation ignited a curiosity that led her to major in biology in undergraduate school at Arkansas State University and prompted her to get her master’s degree in social work at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She started graduate school after her two children started preschool and wanted to return to work outside the home. She also wanted to understand why some people survive emotional trauma and others do not.

Fulton says she first sought treatment for her own trauma when she was pregnant with her now 33-year-old daughter. Later, when Fulton was in her 30s, she “decided that I wasn’t going to keep this secret necessarily anymore” and started sharing it with others: “I remember the first time I looked at somebody and said, … ‘I’ve been sexually abused,’ and they were so shocked.”

“We really have great kids that have had trouble to be sure. I would say that at any given time almost all of the children were here because their parents had substance-abuse issues.You know that cuts through all socio-economic weight. … We have had children from all walks of life.”

Sharing her own experience has helped some children open up when talking with her.

They “don’t have to worry” that she will judge them, she says. She’s able to tell them: “You did not do this. This was not your fault.”

“A lot of these children think they are irretrievably broken. I will say to them, ‘If I can make it, you can make it. … Don’t let that person who stole something from you win.’”

Many abused children “haven’t given themselves permission to be angry about” their situation. “So, I’m angry for them. … The message from me to them is, ‘you were powerless then, but you are safe now.’”

The abuse “was someone else’s choice,” Fulton tells the children. “You deserve that adult to treat you with kindness and appropriate boundaries.”

People too often wrongly think that the children they know are not abused. But statistics show otherwise, Fulton says. “There’s just so many things that we just don’t look at as red flags because we just innocently think no one is targeting [our] children.”

Be observant and ask questions, Fulton advises. Abuse “is happening in your neighborhood. It is happening in your community. And it’s wrong to turn a blind eye to it because it’s uncomfortable.”

Fulton says most of her job involves being an “advocate for the children.”

 

PROM NIGHT

Erin Cook, now 23 and living in West Plains, Mo., moved to the ranch a week before her 17th birthday after making “some repetitive bad decisions.”

“She cared about [our] well-being and us feeling at home,” Cook says of Fulton. “You always had her in your corner, and I know that to this day I still do. I love her like family. That’s how the ranch made me feel — like I was a part of one big blended happy family.”

When Cook’s senior prom week approached, “Mrs. Nancy” was there for her and another young woman. First, Fulton took them to get their hair styled at a salon, where they talked about “my future and boys,” Cook recalled. Come prom night, Fulton went to the girls’ ranch house “and got us ready just like a mother would do,” Cook says.

“That’s the thing about her. She has a huge heart and just wanted to show us love in any way she could,” Cook says. “They got me back on track and got me the help I needed in a loving and caring environment.”

Cook stayed at the ranch almost two years until she finished her senior year. “Not sure where I’d be if it weren’t for” the ranch and Fulton, she says.

Private donations account for 90% to 95% of the ranches’ funding, says Matthew Cleveland, chief development officer at the ranches.

This year, the fundraiser’s 24th Annual Arkansas Children’s Award will be presented to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has worked to improve the state’s foster-care system and who signed a bill this year to reform Arkansas’ juvenile justice system. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception and silent auction. A dinner and program follow at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $200 per person. Other donation opportunities also are available at youthranches.com.

“Our goal is to raise about 10% of our annual budget” at the dinner, Cleveland says. That annual budget is about $2 million.

Beebe, a Democrat and the organization’s first honoree, says he suggested honoring Hutchinson, a Republican, “because he’s done a lot for kids.”

SAFE SPACE

The ranches, which employ about 25 people, evolved from a mobile home on several acres. There, two brothers, ages 7 and 5, found a safe space. Since then, the ranches have housed more than 2,100 young people, and one of those brothers has joined the ranches’ board of trustees.

When Fulton became executive director, the ranches were coming back from the nationwide recession but still faced obstacles. It became her job to make recommendations to the board on how to move forward within budget.

“We determined over time … that we really needed to just pull back into one campus,” she says.

“We’ve been able to stabilize financially and actually have gotten reserves in the bank, which we’ve never had before,” Fulton says. “We’ve started an endowment that will continue in perpetuity for the benefit of the ranch. And then we’ve been able to refurbish the campus this year. So, we’re really pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish in six years.”

Five of the ranches’ houses are now open. Each is home to up to eight children and their house parents. Outdoors, the children can play and help with the ranch’s cows, pigs, goats, chickens, mini-horses, llamas and rabbits.

Because sheriffs started the ranch in 1976, Fulton says many people wrongly “think that it’s like a prison farm or for juvenile delinquents.” But in reality, she says, the sheriffs started it because they kept seeing children who had been abandoned or neglected. “And they wanted to help.”

“We really have great kids that have had trouble to be sure,” Fulton says. “I would say that at any given time almost all of the children were here because their parents had substance-abuse issues. You know that cuts through all socio-economic weight. … We have had children from all walks of life.”

Fulton, who remarried in 2017, enjoys bringing the couple’s two dogs, Panda and Beaux, to her ranch office. She keeps a crate there for when they do accompany her. By the time she married Greg, she had two adult children by her first marriage: Sara Bailey, 33, of Hot Springs, a student who works in retail sales; and her son, Wade Bailey, 32, an electrical engineer living in Peachtree City outside Atlanta. She also has two grandchildren.

At the farm, the younger ranchers regularly gather in each home for “family” meals. Many youngsters come to the ranch with hunger issues and tend to hoard food because they sometimes had to struggle to find food for themselves, especially if their parents were high, spent all their money on drugs and saw their electricity or water cut off. So, ranch employees keep a basket of healthy snacks readily available in each house, Fulton said.

“We have a lot of children who … [previously] existed on microwave macaroni and cheese, chicken ramen noodles and hot dogs … something that was relatively inexpensive that children could make themselves,” she said.

The youngsters attend school in Batesville, can join sports teams, and go to church on Sundays. They can stay while working or going to college even after high school for a time.

“We are passionate about doing the right thing for children,” Fulton said.

As for goals she still hopes to achieve at the ranch, Fulton said she would like to see the reserve fund grow from its current total of about $5 million to $20 million.

That, she said, “would really ensure the success of the [ranches] financially.”