The residents of Eagle Ranch, a Christian home for children in crisis, opened their arms and doors wide on Sunday for the annual open house event.
“It is always better to see something first-hand — seeing is believing,” said Stefanie Long, director of communications at Eagle Ranch. “This is one of the few times that we really open all of our facilities and give the broadest look that people can have to see Eagle Ranch and who we are.”
Founded in 1985, Eagle Ranch focuses on family restoration and reunification. The ranch serves children from North Georgia and metro Atlanta, providing home life, counseling and education for the children on a 270-acre campus in southern Hall County.
Long said that the children who come to Eagle Ranch are going through a difficult period.
“Maybe their parents have been divorced or they are having some issues at home,” Long said. “Sometimes it expresses itself in behavior, sometimes it is school problems, and sometimes it is a little bit of everything.”
The children who come to live at Eagle Ranch stay there from 18 months to two years.
“It is great if we can work with the whole family and help everyone understand what has caused the issues in the child’s life,” Long said.
Every family member can work together to resolve any issues and create a better home life. Long said that doing this can teach life skills that will extend to the next generation.
The open house featured many “new beginnings” for Eagle Ranch.
The Wink Wynne Lodge, which is a gathering place for the kids, is a new building that was featured Sunday. There are also two new girls’ homes — the Blessing Home and the Mercy Home — which opened in the spring. The addition of the two homes doubled the girls’ program, which originally had space for 12 girls.
By next June, the ranch will have capacity for 66 children.
“We always like to see new people come — new audiences, new neighbors — that haven’t come to the ranch and don’t know who we are,” Long said.
Long said that some people will visit once and then come back a few years later, and they can’t believe that there is something new at the ranch.
“People get to learn and relearn who we are and how we’ve grown over the years,” Long said.
Jody Luczak of Dunwoody, a regular donor to Eagle Ranch, visited the Blessing Home on Sunday.
“The kids are so cute, and they’re so proud of it,” Luczak said.
LaShawna and Jourdan, current residents at Eagle Ranch, gave tours of the Blessing Home on Sunday. Both said they like the basement area of the home the best because of the movie room.
During her time at the ranch, LaShawna said she has enjoyed working with the counselors and the horses.
“It is relaxing for me,” LaShawna said. “I can learn about horses and learn about myself at the same time.”
McKensie, a past resident who lived at Eagle Ranch for 10 months, was also at the Blessing Home on Sunday.
McKensie said she enjoyed the family feeling that she got when she first came to Eagle Ranch.
“It wasn’t just like you come here, you get help, and then you leave,” she said. “You get really close to the girls and the staff.”
McKensie said she remains close with two girls still living at Eagle Ranch and a few who have already left.
She said Eagle Ranch taught her that she has a choice and whatever choice she makes has a consequence — good or bad.
McKensie is a sophomore in high school, and plans on going to college for ministry. She loves to draw, read and play the guitar.
McKensie’s mother, Lauri, said that McKensie has grown in areas — such as her love for the guitar — that she probably would not have without Eagle Ranch.
“Before she came, she had no idea how to even hold a guitar,” Lauri said. “And now she can stretch herself, and she can play. She is pushing herself in that area.”
Lauri believes that McKensie’s progress relates to the support that she has had from the staff and the friends that she has made.
“As shy as McKensie was when she got here, she was up on stage signing,” said McKensie’s father, Mike.
After multiple people brought up Eagle Ranch as an option for helping McKensie, Lauri thought it was God’s sign telling her that it was where McKensie needed to be.
Throughout McKensie’s time at Eagle Ranch, her family was able to work on issues together.
Mike said that once they realized that there was a whole family issue, the marriage grew stronger and he and his wife became more in sync with their kids.