EDMOND — Youths who live at Boys Ranch Town love to offer their annual Living Christmas Pageant for the community. Brent Thackerson, administrator for the faith-based boys home, said the boys like to see all the people who come to the drive-through pageant, continuing tonight and Sunday, because it makes them feel as if people care about them. But Thackerson would feel better if Boys Ranch Town were more financially secure. The home at 5100 SE 33 is in dire straits, the worst since its inception, he said. Currently, Boys Ranch Town is on the brink of shutting down one of its five cottages. The cottage houses about eight of the 44 children who consider the ranch town their home. Thackerson said it costs about $200,000 to operate one of the cottages for a year, including food, medical expenses, staff house parents and other needs. He said he recently requested milk for the home’s youths when he applied for a grant from the Edmond Women’s Club. "We’re just trying to feed the kids and meet their needs,” Thackerson said. "It’s the situation we’re in.”
Economic woes trickle downThackerson attributes the dwindling coffers to the troubled economy and a dip in donations. Steve Childers is communications director for Baptist Homes for Children, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma affiliate that runs Boys Ranch Town. Childers said that like most charities, Baptist Homes for Children is experiencing a 10 percent decrease in donations. He said in addition to the decreased donations from people and churches, the organization expects to operate on a decreased budget next year as compared to the current year. He said a portion of the organization’s budget comes from endowment funds administered by the Oklahoma Baptist Foundation. He said $3.3 million in endowment funds helped shore up this year’s budget, but only $1.5 million in endowment funds is expected next year. Childers, 59, said a hiring freeze is in effect to deal with the financial constraints. "We have cut everything that’s possible to cut. We don’t want to cut services to children,” he said. Thackerson, 40, said he thinks the economy has affected donations because Boys Ranch Town has always had contributors to help meet its needs. He said many people may not know about the home’s bleak situation. "I think just a few folks are beginning to understand the severity of what’s happening. Now we know it’s affecting us,” he said. "When the economy crashed, sometimes there’s a ripple effect. There’s a delay. Now we’re feeling it.” He said plans are in place to close one of the cottages if the financial situation doesn’t improve. Thackerson said he is not planning to turn out any of the home’s residents. Rather, Boys Ranch Town will stop accepting more boys as the home becomes unable to hire adequate staff. Thackerson said the boys have been assured that they will have a home at the ranch town, even as the home tries to remain afloat. He said the boys are ages 7 to 18. Some are in the custody of the state Department of Human Services, while others come from families who are unable to care for them.
Call to provide a homeThackerson said he grew up in Eldorado, Texas, near an independently run boys ranch town. He said he cried when he was about 5 years old and his mother told him the residents’ parents could not adequately care for them. A graduate of Texas Tech University, Thackerson was appointed as a collegiate missionary to Boys Ranch Town in Edmond in 1990. "It’s a calling from the Lord (that) I’ve felt since I was a little kid,” he said. Thackerson said he became Boys Ranch Town’s administrator 13 years ago, and like the boys, he sees the ranch town as home. "Hopefully, we would not have to tell anyone they have to leave. That would be devastating to any one of our kids,” he said. "It’s not a camp they go to. This is their home.”
How to helpTo donate to Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and Boys Ranch Town: →Mail: 5100 SE 33, Edmond, OK 73013. →Phone: 341-3606. →Internet: www.obhc.org or see Baptist Homes for Children on Facebook.
Drive-through Pageant→When: 7 to 9 tonight and Sunday. →Where: 5100 SE 33, Edmond.