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Cultivating a Sense of Purpose

Cultivating a Sense of Purpose

first_img Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email SOMERS – On a sunny September day, a group of adults with developmental disabilities sat at a large dining table at Lighthouse Christian Home, eating a zesty salad made of greens grown in their garden. Outside their cows roamed the fields and their pigs oinked in pens. Their chickens clucked around like chickens do. The key word here, the word that drives Lighthouse Christian Home’s unique philosophy, is “their.” These adults with developmental disabilities have ownership, a claim to self-fulfillment and self-sufficiency. At their Flathead Valley home and farm, they are asked to seize life. And they do. “They have everything they need to have a fulfilling life,” Executive Director Shirley Willis said. “That’s what we all need is a fulfilling life, but that’s the biggest struggle with individuals with disabilities – having a fulfilling life.” Lighthouse Christian Home, situated in the heart of the valley’s farmland between Somers and Kalispell, is a nondenominational, nonprofit organization that uses the motto: “Faith, Farm and Family.” It sits on 40 acres donated by Lowell Bartals of the Helena-based “Farm in the Dell” program, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities. Peter and Denise Pelchen opened the home in 1998. Aided by staff and outside volunteers, the 12 residents tend to a robust garden and various populations of livestock. A great deal, though not all, of their food comes from what is grown and raised there. Willis said there are practical benefits to such a system. In the summer, grocery bills are less than $700 per month for all of the residents plus an average of two staff members for three meals per day. That pencils out to about 71 cents a meal. The food is healthy, local and tasty. Even in the winter, frozen and stored food contributes to reduced grocery bills. But beyond the practicalities are benefits that are harder to immediately identify, and their impact affects much more than the bottom line. Willis said growing food and being responsible for livestock contribute to a sense of purpose – in anybody, and especially in Lighthouse Christian Home’s residents. Willis, who has worked with developmental disabilities for 30 years, said the group home’s “model is unique – across the board.” “In my opinion, it works,” she said. “It just flat out works. It gives them satisfaction and self-worth and makes them feel that they’re providing for themselves.” Willis motioned to the residents at the table, who were eating, joking and giggling, and added: “I mean, just look. Is it not impressive?” The residents have their own rooms located in specific male and female wings. They have daily chores interspersed with games, activities and meals. They are taught to operate as a family, treating each other as brothers and sisters and operating under the fundamental principles of communal living. Each room reflects its inhabitant’s personality. There are sports fans, music lovers and collectors, all encouraged to express themselves. “They are very proud of their home,” Willis said. “They know it’s a blessing.” Located upstairs, along with bedrooms, are a living room, kitchen and open dining area. In the basement is a game and activity room, with exercise machines, a “man cave” with televisions, basketball hoops and more. Also downstairs is the work area where residents place labels on Montana Coffee Traders bags. They are paid for their work. Andrea Kossler, who lives with three other women in a section of the house reserved for more independent residents, says she feels “grateful” to live at Lighthouse Christian Home. The residents and staff, she said, are her family. Kossler has been at the home for seven years. “I don’t think I could live on my own,” she said. “I think I’d be lonely. You come here and you have people buzzing all over the place.” About 60 percent of Lighthouse Christian Home’s budget comes from fees that the residents’ families pay. Fundraising and donations account for the other 40 percent. “We just feel fortunate and blessed that people in the community feel that this is an exceptional enough program that they feel it’s worthy of their support,” Willis said. One of the year’s biggest fundraisers is the upcoming Harvest Festival, scheduled on Saturday Sept. 17 at the North Somers Road property. Last year, Willis said almost 300 people attended the festival. The public is invited. There are a number of activities on tap for this fall’s Harvest Festival, including raffles, live music, hay rides, a petting zoo, face painting, games, a bake sale, mini buggy rides and “Cow Chip Bingo.” The event is held from noon to 5 p.m. at 384 N. Somers Rd. For more information on the Harvest Festival or the Lighthouse Christian Home, call (406) 857-3276. “It’s about awareness of who we are and what we do,” Willis said. And they enjoy what they do. Out on the farm, life is good. “The lifestyle is healthy, it’s rewarding, it’s good for your soul,” Willis said. last_img read more

Trial Date Set, Preliminary Injunction Requested for Ranch for Kids

Trial Date Set, Preliminary Injunction Requested for Ranch for Kids

first_imgEureka’s Ranch for Kids has had a busy month and a half of interaction with the state, starting with a Feb. 5 court ruling against the facility’s religious exemption from state licensure and later including a nationally publicized legislative debate on the state rules that allow such religious exemptions.Then over the past several weeks, more paperwork was filed in the ranch’s legal battle over licensure and a trial date was set in a second state Department of Labor and Industry lawsuit over a building code dispute. The state also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the building code lawsuit, requesting a judge to order the ranch to quit using certain buildings on its property where the state has concerns and to shut down power to certain buildings until the labor department can verify compliance. The motion asks the court to schedule a show-cause hearing.An attorney for Ranch for Kids said Monday he would be preparing a response to the state’s motion.Lincoln County District Court Judge James Wheelis has set a pretrial conference for Oct. 24 in the building code case. The trial will begin Dec. 3. Ranch for Kids is a respite care home that takes in adopted children from around the world who are experiencing problems at home, often due to fetal alcohol-related issues. State attorneys had said Ranch for Kids was making efforts to correct its building code infractions, but the request for an injunction and decision to move forward with a trial are signs that the labor department feels the ranch hasn’t sufficiently fulfilled its requirements. The injunction motion says the ranch has “refused” to make some corrections.The ranch’s two labor department lawsuits are distinct, with one focusing exclusively on licensing requirements and the ranch’s unsuccessful argument that it qualifies for a religious exemption from state licensure. The other focuses on building and electrical code violations. Yet both cases share the common theme of a fundamental disagreement over state oversight, which was at issue during a recent legislative debate that made CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, proposed a bill to eliminate the religious exemption from state licensure for organizations and schools claiming a church affiliation.On March 13, the House killed the bill 52-45, preserving the religious exemption. Only a small number of children’s facilities – including Ranch for Kids – have utilized the exemption, which clears them from state licensing regulations.The exemption may be a moot point for Ranch for Kids, given that Judge Wheelis ruled that the organization’s stated religious affiliation doesn’t qualify. But a ranch representative traveled to Helena for a February committee hearing to speak against the bill.And, although St. Ignatius’ Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch and School was the primary focus of the legislative debate, Hill brought up Ranch for Kids in an emotional defense of her proposal on the House floor. Hill wondered why professions like barbers and outfitters have state oversight but facilities that are entrusted with the safety of children can be exempt.Ranch for Kids has been operating without a state license since 2010. Though it was once licensed, the ranch has claimed that since it is now affiliated with a church it is no longer subject to state licensure. But an attorney for the state Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Programs (PAARP) board argued in court that the ranch only became affiliated the ministry to escape oversight. Judge Wheelis sided with the state, ruling that the ranch must do what’s necessary to become compliant with the state or quit operating. Wheelis ordered the ranch to submit a completed application for licensing, background checks of employees and an application fee to the PAARP board no later than March 8. The judge also ordered the ranch to reimburse the board $24,974.89 in attorney’s fees. Additionally, Wheelis said the state “shall schedule an onsite inspection” of the ranch following the application submission.The ranch responded with a Feb. 26 motion seeking relief from having to pay the attorney’s fees and asking for an extension to the March 8 deadline, calling it “arbitrary.” The state responded by saying it’s entitled to the attorney’s fees under state law. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Emaillast_img read more