• 57°

Raising money for the Tallapoosa Girls Ranch

VALLEY — Two house parents at the Tallapoosa Girls Ranch were guest speakers at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. It was the club’s first meeting of 2021 as there had been no meetings in January and February due to Covid-19.

Jimmie and Chrystal Prater have been house parents for the past three years. They and two other pairs of house parents provide the stable home life that comes for youth who are living at the Girls Ranch. Most of the girls are in their teenage years, but in some cases girls as young as six years of age could be living there. There are three homes at the ranch with as many as nine girls in each household. At the present time, there are 24 girls living there. They are there through no fault of their own. They haven’t been in any kind of trouble, but come from households headed by troubled parents. The situation they have been caught up in inspired the Alabama Youth Ranches motto: “It’s better to raise strong children than to repair broken adults.”

The ranch straddles the Tallapoosa-Lee County line near Camp Hill. Most of the ranch is on the Tallapoosa side with a pond being in Lee County. It’a a 200-acre fully-functioning ranch with all kinds of livestock.

The girls ranch was founded by Alabama sheriffs more than 50 years ago, and the vast majority of girls who have come through the program have gone on to productive lives. Many are college graduates who maintain a lifelong connection to the ranch and regularly ask if there’s anything they can do to help.

“Our main focus is to share the love of Christ with the girls,” Chrystal Prater said. “We work with Youth for Christ. Each house has a married couple living there. Our goal is for each house to be a home where everyone does everything together.”

Prather spelled out the word ranch, saying what each letter stood for. R is for responsibility – everyone does daily chores, participates in family devotionals and pledges allegiance to the flag; A is for animals and atmosphere, N for navigate life in healthy ways, C for the Christ-centered way of life and H for happy and healthy—- the way house parents want all the girls to be.

The Praters have three boys of their own.

“They are ages six, nine and eleven, and they see the girls as their sisters,” Chrystal said. “We are just one big happy family out there.”

She thanked the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and local civic clubs with their help the past two years in a Grillin’ for Girls event. Money raised in these fundraisers helped the ranch purchase a four-wheel drive truck.

“We needed one to haul things around on the ranch,” Chrystal said. “With the truck, we can now take the girls horseback riding.”

A current goal is to have a learning center to help prepare the girls for college. They attend school in nearby Reeltown and are active in the school band, cheerleading and sports.

There’s a need for donations to help keep the ranch providing top-rate services for the girls.

“Some of them arrive here with nothing more than the clothes on their back,” Chrystal said.

Girls are taken in as new members of that one big happy family. Each one has a structured living environment where they receive love, stability and a safe place to call home. They learn livestock care, farm work and lawn care. They attend churches and schools in the local community and are encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities.

To be eligible to stay at the ranch, a girl:

4must be between 6 and 18 years of age;

4she must not have any other appropriate living arrangements;

4cannot be an adjudicated delinquent;

4must be physically capable of participating in program activities;

4cannot have severe behavioral problems;

4must have potential to perform in school;

4no alcohol or drug dependency is allowed, and

4the girl must have both the willingness and motivation to work on personal problems.

The Praters were accompanied to the meeting by Major T.J. Wood of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office. He told members of the club that ticket sales had been slow for this year’s Grillin’ for Girls event but that he was hopeful it will start to pick up.

The fundraiser for the girls ranch will be taking place between April 1-3.

Tickets are $25 each and each plate includes a ribeye steak, sides and a drink. It’s a pick-up only event. Plates can be picked up from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 1 at Langdale Methodist Church in Valley. They can also be picked up from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. CST on Friday, April 3 at the ALFA Building in LaFayette. There will be a visual auction at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 3.

Tickets are available at the sheriff’s office and at Newman’s Farm Supply in LaFayette, at the Courthouse Annex in Lanett, at Daniels’ Drive In in Valley or by calling (256) 896-4113.