News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY A team of teen-agers from the Sheriff's Last Chance Ranch working at clearing what is left of a house. The young men, all in high school, come from various counties. They live at the ranch.
click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Last Chance Ranch teens sweating for a good cause: tornado cleanup
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- It was hot Friday morning on Lake June Road. Clouds banked on the horizon, but overhead the sky was a clear blue and the sun beat down.
Four teenagers, each wearing a red T-shirt with "Failure is not an option" in big white letters on the back, climbed all over a large pile of debris. The towering jumble contained a tree trunk about 3 feet around, roof beams and sheets of twisted aluminum. Boards jutted out like porcupine quills, bristling with nails.
It was all that was left of a home destroyed by June's tornado.
The young men are all students at the Sheriff's Last Chance Ranch in Glades County. At-risk teens are remanded there by the court system for an opportunity to turn their lives around.
Highly structured and residential, the program is a mix of public high school and ranching. The boys work in the ranch's cow/calf operation and raise horses, goats and pigs. The ranch tries to be self-sufficient, so the work is for real.
Clearing away tornado debris grew out the ranch's tradition of reaching out to community.
When a friend got in touch with Bob McDaniels, who teaches husbandry at the ranch, and told him about an elderly man who needed help with his destroyed home, McDaniels got a team of boys together.
"It's about giving assistance," McDaniels said. "Giving back to the community and developing a work ethic."
Ranging in school grade from high school freshman to senior, each teen was from a different county.
McDaniels called them from their work. They approached a visitor with arms stretching out for a hand shake, making direct eye contact and using the word "sir."
Sunburned and sweaty, they wore heavy leather gloves and floppy brimmed hats.
Asked how they were going about moving the debris, one raised his hands in the air and wiggled his fingers. "The old-fashioned way," he smiled, "we're using our hands."
The crew began Tuesday. By Friday, they'd managed to fill two 30-yard containers with about half the debris. McDaniels thought they might have two to three more days of work.
Watching the boys separating wood from the pile, it became clear the project was as much about practical learning as it was doing a good deed.
For example, a fence post lay on its side, the bottom third a solid block of concrete that had to be removed.
It was a task the teens stood in line to do.
Each in his turn picked up the small sledge hammer and pounded away with abandon.
"Slow down, not so hard," McDaniels said. "The hammer will just eat you up."
And indeed it did. Each boy had to finally give up.
"I don't care how long you beat it," McDaniels told them, "you're not going to wear that hammer out."
Instead, McDaniels said, they should look at the concrete block like a puzzle. "Learn how to see the parts, the cracks, where we want to break it off."
He stepped back and watched with affection as the boys worked steadily as a team.
McDaniels' goal to help each one become whole man who lives a fulfilled life. To start in a new direction, he said, there is nothing better than learning "hard life skills under the hot sun."
Last Chance Ranch (by: AMI KIDS..Parent - 8/14/2012)
And it is a shame that our Govenor Rick Scott / Deparment of Juvinal Justice is closing these places down. They say lack of funding..AMI KIDS/Crossroads in Punta Gorda will be closed this August 29, 2012. and AMI KIDS/Last Chance Ranch will be the next within 2 years. They are a NOT FOR PROFIT Orginazation, but they do get funding by the goverment. Our Govenor Rick Scott would rather put these troubled youths directly to JAIL instead of a dervision program.
Small Banner Ads