I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Connecting with you via my year end letter is one of my favorite things to do during the holiday season. Before I dive in, I’m happy to share that we have a matching gift of $10,000 from Richelle and Dustin Austin, two of our amazing angels here at Ranch Hands Rescue and Bobs House of Hope! If you commit to joining our monthly giving program, Hands of Hope, by 12/31/23 then your donation will be doubled up to $10,000. Thank you in advance for your support.
In developing this organization over the last 14 years, I’ve always tried to fill a void in areas that impacted victims, both animals and humans. I did this by operating from a central, guiding principle: There is a solution for every problem. It may not always be easy to find, but it is out there. That truth has always given me hope, and hope is exactly what Ranch Hands Rescue was built on.
Over all those years, my greatest struggle has been the inability to say no to someone in need. Whether it be bringing in a new special needs animal, placing a child who has been sexually abused on a waiting list, or having to refer out a young man who has been sex trafficked because we are full and do not have a bed available, they all weigh heavily on my mind and on my heart. I have learned (from kind souls like you) that saying no is necessary to build something strong and sustainable. Thanks to you, I know there is a way forward. Thanks to you, we have found solutions to problems others said could not be solved. Thanks to you, RHR has created hope, healing, and innovative solutions to overwhelming challenges facing our community.
From that solutions-oriented perspective, I am delighted to share two announcements with you. First, we will be opening a specialized safe house for boys 12-17 who have been sex trafficked. This, my friends, is a huge undertaking. Others have attempted to fill this need, but they have not been successful. At present, there is not one safe house for minor boys that have been sex trafficked in the entire country. That is an unacceptable reality and a truly overwhelming challenge faced by our community. And it is exactly the kind of challenge that necessitates an innovative solution supported by people who know there is a solution to every problem. That is to say, it is exactly the kind of challenge that YOU have been helping us overcome for 14 years.
Currently, our 40acre expansion is well underway! The plumbing and electrical infrastructure is in, the roads are being prepped for cement, and housing units are going up, including the recreation center. The rec center is complete with gym, music room, classrooms, offices, an industrial kitchen, day room, and much more. Our strategy for these boys is comprehensive. They have been through so much, and we know the brain needs time and the right conditions in order to heal. Therefore, we created a 4-5 year program designed to focus on body, mind, and spirit. The expanded facilities will give us the tools needed to carry out that holistic recovery model.
When we talk about a comprehensive strategy that focuses on body, mind, and spirit, the first of these is actually the last one listed, spirit. Spiritual health is often the last thing on a survivor’s mind, but it is foundational to their recovery. By igniting hope in these young men we demonstrate through our actions that God has a plan for us. He is present in everything we do, and that is central to instilling the hope that was lost. Second, we focus on bodily health. Many of these young men have never learned how to properly brush their teeth, let alone cook a meal, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or play on a sports team. We provide them with shelter, food, clothes, hygiene products, access to all health services, and mentorship to guide them through the proper development of the skills needed to live as an independent adult. Last, but certainly not least, we focus on the mind. Due to the extensive nature of their trauma histories, these innocent victims require intensive mental and emotional health services. We do this by establishing safety, structure, and trust built on meeting each survivor where they are in their recovery. We work with them through psychological assessments, medication management, trauma therapy, and, just as importantly, extracurricular experiences. Not only do we want to ensure they receive the best mental health care, we also want them to experience life outside of trauma and treatment. This is where outings, sports, crafting, exercise, and other fun opportunities come in. These young men are incredible individuals who just need a chance at a level playing field, and that is what our program aims to provide them.
The second announcement I would like to share with you is that the 40acre expansion will also feature expansion of our animal sanctuary. With the added space, a 10 stall barn, run-in sheds, fencing, and other additions, we will be able to house more animals than ever before. Taking in critical care animals has always been central to the mission and vision of Ranch Hands Rescue, but with limited space we have had to slow down the rescue portion of our sanctuary considerably. I am excited to restart special needs animal rescue and rehabilitation, as well as teach our residents how to care for critical care animals. I believe animal care is essential to recovery, and it gives us the opportunity to teach work skills within the safety net of our programs. I love our animal partners, and I am looking forward to welcoming new additions to our family.
Before sharing our next steps and closing out my letter, I want to briefly paint a picture that I would like for you to carry with you as you reflect on your support of RHR. It is a worn, tattered portrait of a young man. He is gaunt with tousled hair and grey eyes that are glossy yet alert. He carries with him little more than a few articles of ill-fitting clothing and a bag with a handful of snacks the officer who saved him gave him. He is covered in tattoos, brands from their trafficker, scars, bruises, and scratches. He can’t remember the last time he was sober or ate a home cooked meal, and the fear in his eyes makes it abundantly clear that he is telling you the truth but that he is unsure if he can trust you with something as precious as the truth. His posture is somehow both guarded and open, as if to say “I want a hug and a place to stay, but I am terrified of what I will have to do to get it.” That is what we see every day in the faces of those who need our help. They are desperate to hear the words, “You are safe and no one will ever touch you again.” That is one of the first things I say to them when they come into the house and I share my story. I give them a teddy bear, I let them know they are not alone, and I tell them in plain language that we will keep them safe without expecting anything from them in return.
Now, I would like for you to hold a different picture in your mind. It is a clean, fresh portrait of a young man with gleaming eyes, a broad smile, and a well-groomed appearance. His hair is short, yet modern. His clothing is modest, but it is also distinguished, almost like that of a student. You can see tattoos, but the brands from his trafficker are no longer visible. There are no bruises or cuts or scabs. You can see clearly that his features are full, warm, and healthy. There is even an unmistakable glint in those gleaming gre, no blue, eyes. Could that glint be self-esteem, hope, love? You can see that this is the picture of a young man who has worked hard to find himself and his path. As you move the portrait away from your close inspection, you see that it is emblazoned on a college ID card and that the young man in the portrait is in fact the same one from the previous picture. You almost didn’t recognize him! This is what happens when dreams are turned into action. A young man who was afraid, lost in addiction, and a victim of sexual slavery gets a GED, gets into college, gets his own car and his own job, celebrates 18 months of sobriety, and has the courage to stand before God, and all others, and say, “I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor, and I will write my own story.” These are the pictures we take when a young man first arrives and those they obtain for themselves as they progress through their recovery. These stories are real. These faces are real. These outcomes are real.
Friends, please hold those two starkly contrasted images in your mind. Moving innocent victims from terror to triumph is what this expansion is all about. The hard part is that the upfront cost is substantial. For example, the recreation center is $1,000,000.00, the infrastructure is over a million dollars, the houses are about $105,000 each, and the barn is about $250,000. Also, we want to build a chapel. I believe these young men need a place to pray, a place to play, and a place to restore. They need the opportunity to speak with God and to understand the meaning of community and gathering together. The chapel cost is approximately $250,000 as well. On top of those costs, our staff will double, which means our operation costs will rise significantly. So, while we have managed to initiate construction and build out several of these projects, we need your continued help to raise the funds needed to finish this expansion.
Could you introduce us to the executive team where you work? Could you start a fundraising campaign on our behalf through your church or local community organization? Would you join us as a volunteer and become an RHR Ambassador? Would you join our Hands of Hope monthly giving program? Will you make a 3-year pledge to give $2500, $5000, or more? Enclosed you will find a donation form with a listing of various ways to help. While there are many ways to give and to help us reach our goals, we want whatever way you choose to be sustainable for you. You are part of our family, and we want you to be with us for years to come.
In closing, I want you to know that you are making it possible for those we serve to rewrite the stories and take new portraits that reflect their God-given worth. I firmly believe that our merit as a community will be judged on how we treated the most vulnerable among us, and there is no doubt that those we serve are among the most vulnerable. I am so incredibly grateful to you for providing the support we need to be that beacon of light in the darkness for these innocent victims. I want you to know that I pray for you daily, and we deeply appreciate your prayers for the boys, the clients, and all of the animals we serve.
On behalf of myself, the staff, and those we serve, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Founder and CEO
Ranch Hands Rescue and Bob’s House of Hope
940-240-0500, ext. 3
Landon Dickeson, MS, LPC, C-DBT
Ranch Hands Rescue and Bob’s House of Hope
940-240-0500, ext. 4
Ranch Hands Rescue, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. EIN: 26-4610450
Bob’s House of Hope is a program of Ranch Hands Rescue