Eagle Ranch Open House
What: Tours of its homes, facilities and new equine center
When: 2-5 p.m. Oct. 19
Where: 5500 Union Church Road, Flowery Branch
More info: www.eagleranch.org
At Eagle Ranch, the needs of children in the community drive the vision for the future.
The nonprofit children’s home for boys and girls in crisis relies entirely on private funding to support its $3.7 million annual budget. The budget is re-evaluated annually based on the need for the next year.
“We have a saying here, that ‘need drives vision,’” said Eddie Staub, executive director of Eagle Ranch. “That is really the way we operate.”
The $3.7 million annually given to the ranch comes from individuals, corporations, local businesses, foundations and churches. Staub said the majority of its funding goes directly to caring for the 66 children who live at the ranch.
“Almost 80 percent goes directly to the care of our boys and girls,” Staub said. “That’s defined as residential care, counseling and our school. So that means 80 percent of our budget goes toward our mission.”
Care includes housing, food, providing schooling and offering certified counseling for all of the children housed on the ranch, according to Staub.
Stefanie Long, director of communications for Eagle Ranch, said the ranch is entering the primary giving season. She said it receives more than 40 percent of the year’s funding in the last three months of the year.
“Year-end giving is so important to us,” Long said. “From small gifts to large, people feel invested in helping boys and girls when they support our work.”
Eagle Ranch’s property includes the SACS–accredited school for sixth- through ninth-graders, a girls residential area, boys residential area, chapel, reception lodge, an expansive manmade lake and an athletic complex including a pool, tennis courts and gymnasium.
“We have 270 acres and everything is paid for,” Staub said. “We don’t do anything until we have all the money to do it, so we’ve been debt free since our inception.”
The ranch has a new equine program made possible in part by a family “that had a heart for equine therapy,” according to Staub.
“Kids that have trust issues with people, a lot of times they build trust better with a horse,” said Long. “They also can develop leadership skills, like when they succeed in getting a horse to do what they ask it to do. It develops their confidence and starts getting them to trust in a way they might not have with people.”
Staub said the nonprofit saves money by housing boys and girls on opposite sides of the same property.
“Because they are on the same property, we get the separation we need but we capture all these economies of scale with regard to buildings, staff and that kind of thing,” Staub said. “We don’t have to duplicate things.”
The ranch employs 55 people full time, but Long said a large portion of the work on the ranch is done by volunteers and donors. A volunteer does all the mechanical repairs on the ranch, and all the lawn mowing across the 270 acres is done free by Kubota Manufacturing of America, which has a factory in Gainesville.
“They called us one day and said, ‘We need a place to test our mowers,’” Staub said. “So they mow all our grass. That saves us about $4,000 just on gas, and they cut all our grass for us.”
Staub said while food is the biggest expense on the ranch, it’s also the biggest way to save. Pepperidge Farms donates a variety of food, Publix donates milk and Kroger donates bread. The rest of their food is bought in bulk.
“We have people who help, which is great because this is one of our biggest areas of expense,” Long said. “You can imagine, all these teenage kids on a campus.”
Both Staub and Long said people throughout the community have helped them determine ways to operate more efficiently.
“I just think the overarching theme here is God’s provision,” Staub said. “He’s drawn people to our mission ... It’s almost as if a community has come together and said, ‘There needs to be a place for children and families in Northeast Georgia to come together and get help.’
“And that’s sort of the heartbeat here.”