The following is an article entitled “The Members We Serve,” first printed in the Carroll Electric Coop May 1990 edition of Rural Arkansas. It is reprinted here in its entirety.
The Lord will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people and Continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10 NIV
Ken and Sheila Ortman, founders of the Lives Under Construction Boy’s Ranch (LUC), have literally given everything they have to fulfill what they believe is God’s purpose for them in life: to help reshape young lives that have lrone astray.
The Lives Under Construction Boy’s Ranch is a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian facility located between Carr Lane and Lampe, Mo.
While operating a dairy in Marion, S.D., Ken and Sheila became involved in Christian outreach. Their first experience was with the ‘Man to Man’ prison ministry program. While they were working with a paroled inmate, he stole from them and shot a policeman. The young man was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. Ken and Sheila talked with him later and asked what they could have done differently and he answered, “You just came too late. If somebody had helped me when I was 10, then I’d be all right.”
With this insight, Ken and Sheila became involved in foster care and worked at a boy’s ranch in Washington state before purchasing land in Missouri, with the dream of building a boy’s ranch.
The ranch was started with meager beginnings: 86 uncleared acres, a well house and a storm shelter. The Ortman family lived in the well house for a month until a donated trailer could be brought to the site. Ken stated, “I knew if Sheila didn’t leave me then, she never would.”
The progression of the ranch has been swift through the seven and one-half years it has been in existence. From one trailer and one court appointed boy, the ranch has expanded to contain a dormitory which houses 16 boys plus three staff families. Other facilities on the grounds house four more staff families. A dairy operation and a pig farrowing operation have been added as well as a workshop and several other structures.
The boys come for a variety of reasons. Some have had drug or alcohol problems, others have experienced problems at school or home.
Many of the boys arc at the ranch instead of spending time behind bars. Ken stated, “We believe it is more beneficial for society and for the boys to learn good work habits at the ranch than to become hardened and learn the wrong things in jail.” To date, the LUC Ranch has worked with a total of 51 boys, ranging in age from 8 to 21. Must come from a 70-mile radius of the ranch but some have been accepted from as far away as Washington state. The average stay for each boy is 15 months.
The LUC’s Boy s Ranch is different from most youth facilities. It is managed like a large family with the Ortman’s own children, Daniel, 17, and Melissa, 11, having the same rules and responsibilities as the boys. (The Ortman’s oldest son Kevin is a freshman at Pensacola Christian College in Florida).
Each boy learns by example, the responsibilities and benefits of being part of the family. Love und constructive discipline are balanced to provide for the well-being and happiness of each individual. Everyone becomes involved in family activities such as church attendance, music, table games, athletic games, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and other outings. The boys are responsible for the care of the animals which include 25 dairy cows and their calves, 10 sows and their litters, 40 Angora goats, seven horses, three sheep, three dogs, chickens and a buffalo. The most responsible boys do both the morning and evening milking. The honor of being on the “milking crew and the small wage paid is enough to make most of the boys desire to be milkers. The boys help with repairs of tractors, machines, appliances, buildings and more. They recently helped construct the new dormitory of which they’re all very proud. As the boys develop responsibility, they go out into the community and do various jobs such as lawn mowing and upkeep, brush clearing, leaf raking, dirt leveling and moving, hay hauling, housecleaning, painting and more. The boys keep 60 percent of the income generated and 40 percent goes to the ranch. They also participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program, keeping 6.7 miles of highway clean.
The ranch has strict rules and set consequences for breaking the rules. For example, if a boy steals an item, he must pay the owner two times its value. If he lies about stealing it, then he pays three times the value. Ken stated, “The boys want discipline. They want to know the limits. ”Tough love is evident at the ranch. If we expect a lot from our kids, we usually receive it. I think we do our kids a disservice by not expecting enough from them,” added Ken. The boys participate in Bible studies and devotions at the ranch and attend church each Sunday, worshipping with several different denominations. Ken and Sheila attribute the success of the program to strong Christian principles, hard work and constructive, consistent discipline.
Because their philosophy differs from that of the state, the Boy’s Ranch does not receive state funds. “We believe these values are so important that we won’t sacrifice them in order to receive state money,” Ken stated.
The ranch operates on income generated by the staff and boys as well as donations of money, food products, clothing, farm implements, lumber and other needed items from individuals and community groups. Parents of the boys are expected to help the ranch as much as possible, but only 5 percent of the income generated actually comes from parents. One full-time volunteer and. Four part-time regular volunteers help the Ortmans with their work. Many other individuals and community groups frequently volunteer their time and energy.
A volunteer group of seven board of directors are very excited about the good things happening at the ranch. The directors represent various back-grounds and communities in the area. Volunteers are always needed at the ranch and visitors are always welcome.
All assistance, whether in the form of time, money or needed items, is appreciated by the staff and boys. We at Carroll Electric appreciate and respect the dedication and hard work shown by the Ortmans, the volunteers and the boys themselves at the LUC Boy’s Ranch. Lives arc indeed being changed.
RURAL ARKANSAS. MAY, 1990