Chambers County Sheriff’s Office to host fundraiser for Tallapoosa Girls Ranch

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 17, 2020

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LANETT — Major T.J. Wood of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department and Candice Gulley, director of the Alabama Sheriff’s Girls Ranch in Tallapoosa County, were guest speakers at Thursday’s noon hour meeting of the West Point Rotary Club.

Both talked about the Girls Ranch and the upcoming Grillin’ for Girls benefit for the ranch that will be taking place at the ALFA building in LaFayette on Saturday evening, Feb. 8.

“If you’ve never been to the Girls Ranch you should go,” Wood said. “It’s a wonderful place with wonderful people. It will touch your heart. We are excited about having our second annual Grillin’ for Girls. Sid (Lockhart) is passionate about the Girls Ranch. We all are with the Sheriff’s Department and help them as much as we can. We just had a No Shave November and January where officers could grow beards by making donations to the Girls Ranch.”

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Wood said attendees would enjoy being at Grillin’ for Girls in February. Sheriff Lockhart will be doing the cooking. Each attendee will get a large steak and a baked potato with all the trimmings. There will be live entertainment from a bluegrass band.

“Some of the girls from the ranch will be there,” Wood said. “You can meet and interact with them. You can see for yourself that they are not bad girls. They got there because they had been abandoned, abused or neglected. It’s not like they did something wrong.”

“We will be having an auction this year,” Wood said. “We have had some great items donated for it,. too.”

Gulley has been with the Girls Ranch in some capacity for close to ten years. She has succeeded Jimmy Harmon as the director.

“I’’m so pleased to be able to speak to you today,” she said. “Let me first say how much I appreciate the support we have gotten from the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and the West Point Rotary Club. I can’t begin to tell you how much the girls enjoyed the Christmas party you gave for them. Some of the girls there had come from situations where they had never experienced what you might call a Hallmark Christmas. Our girls come from situations when their past Christmases didn’t leave them with good memories. What you did for them was really good. It helped them to open up, knowing that people out there cared for them. It’s good to know that there are good people out there praying for them.”

There are three homes for the girls on a 200-acre site in central Tallapoosa County. Gulley credits former director Jimmy Harmon on having done great work in building up the ranch.

“When we first started in the 1970s it was a ranch setting,” Gulley said. “But somehow we got away from that. We’ve now gotten back to having a ranch and it makes the girls part of something special. We have 26 head of cattle, 32 chickens, four horses and a baby donkey. This keeps us easy, and that’s a good thing. It was a thrill for some of the girls to ride horses in this year’s Dadeville Christmas parade.”

Gulley said it’s important to understand that the girls at the ranch at not delinquents who have been sent there after getting into some kind of trouble.

“They are good girls who are there due to no fault of their own,” she said, explaining that some of them got there because their parents abandoned them or that grandparents who had been raising them were no longer able to do it. “The Sheriffs’ Ranch gives them a chance to have a good life. They range in age from 6 to 18. Some can stay longer if they are enrolled in college. We have two girls who are enrolled at Southern Union. We are all about transitioning them to a good life.”

Gulley said that 14 girls are presently at the ranch and that there’s bed space for six more.

She said that a total of 78 girls have been at the ranch in the nine-and-a-half years she’s been there. The bond that builds between a girl and her house parent never really ends.

“We remain their house parents long after they have gone,” she said. “We take in kids from foster care and in cases where a parent is mentally ill, struggling with substance abuse or financial problems. We are a long-term care facility but do not require financial support from the families. Since we do provide a Christian environment, we do not get much in the way of government help.”

The ranch does get $60 per child in food assistance each month. That breaks down to two dollars a day. Gulley said the ranch’s cattle program supplements food needs.

What really keeps the ranch going is donations from individuals, churches and businesses.

Griffin’ for Girls is one such event that helps.

“You can get tickets for Grillin’ for Girls from the Sheriff’s Office,” Gulley said. “We like for people to follow us on Facebook. We are hoping for another big turnout this year. The girls are excited about being able to go there and to thank people for their support of our ranch. It is a special place.”v