Last Chance boys' home is seeking funds, donations to avoid closing
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodayVENUS - Last Chance Ranch, a boys' home that has rehabilitated hundreds of troubled youths, may shut its doors soon.
Published: November 20, 2012
Published: November 20, 2012
"They are currently trying to get funds from the state to stay open," said Lorraine Hutchins, the Lake Placid Rotary Club's chairwoman for vocational service. "They should know within the next couple of weeks if the funding is approved. If not, they will close the facility after Dec. 31."
"That's correct," confirmed Executive Director Joe Chestnut, who had hoped to hear news of the state funding by the end of last week.
When juveniles get into legal trouble, they can be imprisoned, or they can sentenced to six to nine months at Last Chance Ranch, a mile south of Highlands County on SR 731.
The facility is licensed to accept 25 boys. "Right now, we only have eight," Chestnut said. "The Department of Juvenile Justice didn't want to transfer any more to us if we are going to close."
With an annual budget of close to $1 million, Chestnut said the ranch has accepted frequent donations from the Heartland Riders, Lake Placid Women's Club and others.
"Students are referred to them for many different reasons," Hutchins wrote in her Rotary newsletter, "but as (Last Chance student William Pennbaker) told the Rotarians, each one of them has made bad choices and that is why they are there."
Along with seven others, Chestnut said, Pennbaker, 18, will be graduating on Nov. 21 and returning to his family. He plans to earn a mechanic's degree in college.
"Eighty-two percent of the students that graduate do not get back into trouble," Hutchins said. "The students have the same requirements as any other student. After a full day at school, the students learn life skills, such as how to work with animals. They have pigs, cows and goats at the facility."
And horses, Chestnut added. Students can earn high school credits, earn a GED and learn woodworking, electrical skills, culinary arts and animal husbandry.
Chestnut told Rotarians that students are forced to wear orange jumpsuits until they make the right choices.
Community service is part of the AMIkids program, which serves 56 facilities in eight states. After the Venus tornado, four boys from AMIkids Last Chance Ranch helped with cleanup. Someone told them about an elderly man who needed help after his home was destroyed, so the boys cleared downed trees, twisted aluminum and remnants from the home.
"I enjoy what I do," Chestnut said. "I make a positive impact. We fix the kids, but we fix the family as well."
For more informations or donations, email email@example.com, call (863) 699-3785 or send checks to County Road 19570 CR 731, Venus FL 33960.
firstname.lastname@example.org (863) 386-5828