Contributors to this report include Jacob Bembry and the Florida UMC Children’s Home
Troubled, abused, and neglected children will soon have a new place to find safety and shelter. The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home near Orlando is expanding and building a north campus in Pinetta.
Called the Madison Youth Ranch, it is located on more than 300 acres of donated land, part of which was the former Barksdale Farm, and will serve children from across the state. The former owner of Barksdale Farm, Shirley Ann Bacigalupo, was a school teacher and a foster parent. In her will, she bequeated her land for special children. Mrs. Barksdale died in Sept. 1994.
Some referrals for the ranch will come from state agencies, including the Department of Children and Families. While some of the children are placed through DCF, others are often placed by their families due to behavioral issues or other family problems.
The Ranch is scheduled to begin accepting children in the fall of 2014 with a total of three buildings nearing completion. This includes two residential facilities that will house 8-12 children each. House parents will stay with the children.
“You’re not trying to take the place of family,” Preston Mathews, Madison County resident and former house parent for the Florida UMC Children’s Home said. “You’re trying to give them the kinds of things families should be giving them. It’s not about turning knobs to straighten kids out; it’s about show the kid you love them and there’s not but three ways to let a kid know you love them – to tell them, to write it down and to hug them.”
“The ranch is bringing many opportunities and many different ways for people to volunteer their services and give of their time, their talents and then also give of their money,” said Diane Sullivan, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Madison.
“If you’ll go back to your childhood and imagine at a certain time when you were most scared as a child and how terrible that was for all of us,” posed Billy Sullivan, husband of Diane, and along with her one of the donors to the Madison Youth Ranch. “Most of us came out of it. It didn’t last too long or it was an unfounded fear. Most of these kids that we get down there, that’s their reality. They wake up to that every day.”
“We were on board from the beginning,” Bunny Maultsby said of she and her husband, John. “We know that there’s just a big, big need in this area. I just felt like John and I have been so blessed in our lives that this is a way to give back and what a wonderful way to do it, transforming the life of a child.”
The Maultsbys are members of the First United Methodist Church of Madison.
The Madison Youth Ranch will include residential and therapeutic care as well plans to eventually implement Equine Assisted Therapy.
The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home Madison Youth Ranch is being constructed at 1647 NE Captain Buie Road in Pinetta.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Sept. 18, 2012.
To donate to the ranch, please visit www.allchildrenfirst.org or call (386) 668-5088.
For more information please contact Merrilu Bennett at (386) 801-7411.