A boys ranch planned and constructed to meet the emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs of displaced boys will soon be providing a loving and nurturing environment in which 30 young men can live.
The Legacy Ranch, located at 12729 Stoney Point Road in rural Bonne Terre, held an open house and ribbon cutting last week as work neared completion and the first group of boys were expected to arrive onsite in the coming weeks.
The open house held Oct. 27 at Legacy Ranch was the fulfillment of a dream of its owners, Lennie and Nicole Fincher, to provide a place where wounded boys can become confident young men.
“We’ve been married for 25 years and it was one of those things where we had said that if we ever had enough money to do something like that, we would build a place for kids that didn’t have a home,” said Lennie Fincher, who is pastor of the Missing Peace Church in Park Hills.
“We had our own kids and jobs and things like that,” he said. “Life just kinda got us sidetracked. We talked about it over the years, but we never really thought we would have the financial ability to do it.”
Then, about four years ago, Lennie’s father became ill.
“My parents own the property and they came to us at Thanksgiving that year and said, ‘We feel like God gave us this land to be used for some sort of a ministry, but at that point in their life they knew it wasn’t really going to be them,” Lennie said. “They came to me really because they thought that I might possibly know another minister that might be able to use it for something.
“They asked if I knew of any ministries that might be able to use the land for something. They couldn’t afford to just give it away, but they would let it go for what they owed against it. I didn’t have to think about it and get back to them. I said, ‘Well, if I had it, this is what I’d do.’ They were like, ‘Wow! Where did that come from?’ That got us thinking that this might just work.”
The couple used the equity in the land to purchase the acreage and then began working with a bank to work out the financing.
“We were still short some money, but through the SEED$ (Southeast Economic Development Fund) program, we were able to come up with that final piece of the puzzle to put the deal together and make everything work,” he said. “We just feel that God’s opened the doors for us to be able to do it and we didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t top-notch.
“We visited other homes in the past and we’ve seen some places that have been described — even by people that work in Children’s Division — as children warehouses. So, we wanted to create a home that the kids would actually not be embarrassed to be a part of.”
Nicole interjected, “We want them to feel at home — not like they’re in a home.”
It’s immediately obvious that the Finchers didn’t cut any corners in the facility’s construction.
Each of the three floors measure out at 4,400 square feet, which means the entire building totals a little more than 13,000 square feet. It consists of five living wings, each composed of six single bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchenette.
“We did the kitchenettes so that the kids would have access to healthy snacks whenever they wanted them and didn’t have to go to the kitchen because it will have to remain locked when not in use,” Nicole said. “One thing we’ve been told over and over is that a lot of these kids come in and they’ve been starved and they’ve not had proper nutrition, so we want to be able to provide that for them.
“We felt that doing the separate living wings would create kind of a family unit. We will separate them by both age and personality. If a kid’s not getting along with another kid, we might be able to do some maneuvering to help them work together as a family.
“The dining room is large enough to seat all 30 boys at one time so we can dine together. There’s a recreation area in the basement where we set up the ping pong table this weekend. We’ll be getting some other game tables so they will have a place to play board games, do puzzles and things like that.
“The kitchen is very large with commercial grade equipment and we have a group therapy room where they can all gather together and do some group therapy and we’ll have the counselor’s office where he will be able to do individual counseling and family counseling. We really want to encourage the families to come in and receive counseling as well, so if the child is able to go back home, they are going back to a stable environment.”
Asked about staffing at the ranch, Lennie said, “Dr. Raymond Fabing, LPC, of Bridge of Hope Ministries, has helped us coordinate with a team of therapists. Pastor Gary Selbert, LPC, is going to be our program director. He’ll be working closely with Dr. Fabing who will provide some, but not all, of the therapy. It’s just that Dr. Fabing has so much on his plate with his ministry, he just doesn’t have enough time to do both. David Wilkinson is going to be our direct care staff supervisor. He will be hiring and training, as well as taking care of scheduling for all the people who work on our direct care staff.”
Lennie feels like the ranch put together a “dream team” to work with the boys.
“These are people who have already done this for other homes,” he said. “Even though my wife and I haven’t had experience in this type of a thing, everyone that we are working with has. Even a lot of the direct care staff that’s going to be coming on board have past experience with other children’s homes.
“This is going to be a low-level facility, which means we can target kids that are in the system, not because of anything that they’ve done, but because of family situations. Either their parents are incarcerated or the boys have been removed from the home for their safety.”
Nicole said, “We want them to feel safe.”
As far as spiritual growth, Lennie said there will be church services offered at the ranch and that many of the staff are pastors, hold other ministry positions or are heavily involved in their local church.
“There will be many opportunities for that,” he said. “It’s written into our bylaws that we are a faith-based organization, but we don’t want any kid to feel like it’s being pushed down their throat either. We feel like if we don’t treat them wholly — spirit, soul and body — that they’re going to be missing something in life and that’s probably a lot of what got their families in the position they’re in now.”
Nicole added, “Our goal when they step foot on the property is that they will feel God’s presence. They may not understand it, but that they’ll feel his love and that they’ll know that there are people who truly care about them and want to help them.”
As of last week, Legacy Ranch’s license was still pending while several documents are being finalized. The Finchers were expecting the first boys to arrive within the following two weeks.
“Once we get the OK from our licensing agent, then we have some training that we have to do with our staff before they can actually work with kids. We definitely believe we’re going to have kids here before Thanksgiving.”
Some might be wondering why the Finchers decided to call their boys home thr Legacy Ranch and Lennie is quick to answer when asked.
“We named it that because so many kids out there have not had a strong role model in their life,” he said. “Everybody’s going to leave a legacy. I think that our society is reflective of the fact that there’s not been strong role models, so we wanted to give every boy that comes there the opportunity to change the legacy that they’re going to leave. Hopefully, this will change many things for them and their future generations to break the cycles that they’ve been raised in.”
On Friday, a group of third and fourth graders from St. Joseph Catholic School listened intently to a presentation on the Civil War given by Park Hills Assistant Librarian and Mineral Area College Adjunct Professor Chris Warren.
"Salute to Veterans" – sponsored by the Farmington Museum committee – is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Farmington Public Library in the Sarah Barton Murphy room. The event is free and open to the public. Those visiting the exhibit are asked to use the doors on Liberty Street since the library is closed for Veterans Day.
Warren enlisted the help of student Aiden Vaughn to demonstrate the typical dress of the day and gave details about the uniforms worn – noting the men’s shirts did not have buttons all the way down the front – and the proper etiquette, stating he would have been required to have his jacket buttoned to the top in mixed company.
The exhibit features military uniforms from the Civil War through the modern day. There are also significant artifacts related to St. Francois County as well as war memorabilia from other countries.
The program beginning at 10 a.m. is geared for children grades three through six. Another presentation for grade 7 to adults is scheduled from 10:45 a.m. and will last approximately one hour. The final lecture for the day is 12:45 to 2 p.m.
Refreshments are provided for veterans visiting the exhibit.
Area schools honored veterans in a variety of ways this week.
Former Bismarck superintendent and U.S. Air Force veteran, Dr. Damon Gamble, was the guest speaker at Bismarck School’s Veterans Day Ceremony held Friday morning in the gymnasium.
The program began with the presentation of colors by the VFW Post 6947 Military Honors Team; the Pledge of Allegiance led by second grade students; and welcome and informational video on the history of Armistice/Veterans Day, introduced by Bismarck High School social studies teacher Abe Warren.
Next, the Bismarck High School choir and band performed “Salute to the Armed Forces” under the direction of choir director Matthew Boyer and band director Dennis Mayberry.
This year's winning VFW Post 6947 "Voice of Democracy" speech, written by Madison Dugal, was read aloud in her absence by Josie Campbell. The reading was followed by Alyssa Brake and Zara Masters who recited patriotic poems they'd written.
Addressing the veterans, students, teachers, administration and guests, Gamble, who served in the Air Force from 1968-1972, said, “It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that the fighting of World War I came to an end. The day was originally called Armistice Day and was set aside to honor veterans of WWI. In 1954, it was renamed Veterans Day and expanded to include all veterans that served their country. So, today we honor all our veterans who have placed their lives on the line for our freedom.
“As a veteran, I can tell you that most of these men and women are ordinary people that heard the call of duty and answered it. I can also tell you that I never met a veteran that set out to be a hero. James A. Autry said that he believes ‘It is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance.’ They left their homes, their families and their lives to do whatever they could to defend our way of life. So, now is the time to not only honor those that have fought or are fighting for our freedom — it is also time for each of us to do our part in protecting it.
“Veterans Day isn’t just a day for veterans — it’s a day for all Americans. We need to remember why we fought these wars. We need to understand what causes are worth fighting for and possibly dying for. We must recognize that while we do not want war, we will not shrink from the responsibility of defending our way of life. Future generations depend on us — the ordinary citizens — to be willing to step up and do the extraordinary when it becomes necessary. You see, that’s really what these folks sitting here in front did. Thank you for honoring our veterans today. It truly means a lot. God bless you.”
Following Gamble’s remarks, Bismarck Assistant Principal Katie Martinez offered brief closing remarks and then introduced Ashley Turner who played “Taps,” prior to the military honors team retrieving of the colors, marking the end of the ceremony.
The Central School District held its 15th annual breakfast honoring veterans Friday morning at Central High School.
Assistant Superintendent Troy Bollinger welcomed the veterans and members of the community, sharing his personal appreciation for the sacrifices of service members, even when those sacrifices are never spoken of or brought to light.
“That’s something to be respected and honored,” Bollinger said. “Because we don’t really have a full grasp of what some of our servicemen have gone through.”
Referencing controversial and sensationalized national news stories about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, Bollinger said there is no room for disrespecting the American flag or those who fought under that flag.
“I believe the majority of Americans strongly support our military and don’t condone the actions we sometimes see, with the anthem kneeling and things of that nature,” he said.
Bollinger said that he no longer watches NFL games, but does just fine with Friday night Rebel football, which brought a round of applause from those gathered.
Veterans from Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 then presented the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance was said.
Athletic Director Chad Bradley next invited two Central students who had entered essay contests through the VFW to read their work. First up was 8th grader Aliyah Wagner whose essay titled "America’s Gift to My Generation" was entered in the Patriot’s Pen contest.
“Veterans have blessed my generation with freedom and rights,” Wagner said. “We, as Americans, get to choose who we are in life. Because of all the rights and freedoms veterans have given my generation, we can say what we want and make each and every person have individuality.
“People in America have something special about each of them and it is only because of the people in America who have fought for our constitutional rights.”
Next, Junior Kimmy Wallen read from her essay titled, "American History: Our Hope for the Future," which was entered in the Voice of Democracy contest.
“There is always going to be bad in this world, but there are some very good people in this world who are going to be very successful and achieve their goals,” Wallen said. “But they will have to work hard and take pride in giving our future hope. Our generation definitely does have hope, and we will try to reach our goals and make our country proud the best we can.”
Those in attendance were then treated to a performance by the Central West Elementary Honor Choir.
Following the performance, FCA Member and Senior Football player Garrett Winkler led prayer before the breakfast prepared by the cafeteria staff.
Although Friday wasn’t officially Veterans Day, the Farmington School District spent the morning honoring the men and women who served our country with each school hosting breakfast and other special events.
“It’s so important for our students to be able to thank our veterans and understand what sacrifices they made for our country,” said Superintendent Matt Ruble. “I believe this tradition goes back over 30 years. I have been with the district for 14 years and it has always been a high of the year for the district and something we really look forward to.”
For many of the veterans who attended the morning celebrations across the district, it gave them a chance to connect with students and talk about commitment and service to their country.
“It’s really nice to come and see these kids talking to all the veterans,” said Bill Resinger, an Army veteran attending the breakfast at Jefferson Elementary with his wife and family. “I think it’s really nice what they are doing for the veterans, and it’s important for the students to know what Veterans Day is all about.”
Those veterans who attend the morning festivities at the Truman Learning Center were treated not only to a strong cup of coffee and doughnuts, but a patriotic performance by the district’s kindergarten students - which included a poem about the flag and a rendition of “It’s a Grand Old Flag.”
One grandpa who enjoyed the performance was excited about seeing the students perform as well as they did - but was even more excited about spending the morning with his granddaughter.
“The kids really did a nice job this morning,” said J. Lee Boyd, who was there for his granddaughter, Bella. “But this morning is really about the kids. They are our treasures, so we did what we had to do to protect them.”
Music wasn’t only featured at Truman Learning Center, but at most of the other schools as well. The Black Knight Marching Band traveled to several schools playing music synonymous with Veterans Day.
“Today I saw students at all buildings across the district taking time to honor the service of veterans and I'm glad our marching band kids get the chance to do the same,” said Elliot Naes, the director of the Black Knight Marching Band. “The program we perform was established by Kurt Bauche many years ago and includes classic patriotic music such as 'This Is My Country,' 'Yankee Doodle,' 'My Country 'Tis of Thee,' 'God Bless America,' and the songs for all five branches of the military in the 'Armed Forces Salute.'"
As the schools in the district finished their day of tribute to area veterans, Ruble - like most of the other staff and faculty members - were pleased with the day’s events.
“It's such an amazing day for all of us,” Ruble said. “Our students and staff do a great job planning and making sure the assembly celebrations are a special event. Our band and color guard make the day a special one with their performances at each building and our JROTC looks forward to greeting our veterans at the different campuses.
"We also appreciate the wonderful breakfast served by our food service ladies. They do a great job throughout the year and this is an opportunity for them to show off their cafeteria and welcome our local veterans.”
North County High School students gave veterans a standing ovation during their Annual Veterans Day Ceremony Friday morning. The assembly started off with the veterans being led to their seats by each branch of service while the symphonic band played each branch's song.
After a presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, North County Student Jesse Hootselle gave opening remarks to the veterans and student body.
“On behalf of the student body, I want to express our gratitude to all veterans who have served and to those who are still serving,” said Hootselle. “Veterans Day is often an overlooked holiday and it is only because of the men and women who served and protected our country that we are able to enjoy the freedoms of being an American. Because of veterans we are free to speak our mind, exercise our faith and live our lives according to individual beliefs.”
Hootselle said during this time of turmoil over our flag and standing for the national anthem, everyone needs to recognize that veterans have continued to protect and defend our freedom to make these individual choices.
“As Charles M. Province wrote, it is the soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion,” said Hootselle. “It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to protest. It is the soldier, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, not the politician who has given us the right to vote. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
Hootselle said it is the veteran who has given everyone their future as America has paid a high price for freedoms.
“We should join together as one in honoring our veterans, not only today, but every day,” said Hootselle. “I challenge everyone to join the veterans and serve our country. Not only in the form of military service, but by voting, volunteering in the community and giving of yourself to benefit others.”
Hootselle said there are not enough words or actions to show how grateful everyone is to the veterans and their families for the sacrifices they have made for everyone.
“God bless you and God bless America,” said Hootselle.
Also during the ceremony they did a roll call of veterans, a wreath and Taps ceremony. Six students took the oath in front of the veterans pledging their service to the Armed Forces.
They also heard a speech from keynote speaker Colonel C. Robert Fauser, who was impressed with every aspect of the ceremony and how the students sat attentively.
The veterans were fed a lunch that was served by the students after the ceremony.
West County’s annual Veterans and Senior Citizens Dinner and Concert was held Thursday night at West County High School.
After being treated to a meal and several rounds of Bingo, the West County High School Concert Band took the stage to kick off the evening’s patriotic concert.
The band performed "The Star-Spangled Banner," followed by "Appalachian Spring." Director Darren Cordray read a quote from the composer of the second piece, saying that the piece is the perfect representation of the American dream.
The band closed its three-song set with a performance of a tune called "An American Elegy," which Cordray said was composed in remembrance of the school shootings at Columbine.
The West County Elementary Honors Choir next took the stage, performing "Bells of Liberty," "Grateful to be American" and "The Brave," under the direction of Drew Hartenberger.
Next, the West County High School Concert Choir under the direction of Ryan Hassell took to the stage. The choir first performed "A Tribute to the Armed Services," which included portions of each military branch’s service songs. Hassell invited veterans in the crowd to stand for recognition when their service song was played.
Before beginning the choir’s second piece, titled "O America," Hassell took a moment to explain why the piece was chosen.
“There has always been good and bad in this world. And sometimes when we watch the evening news and read the paper, it seems like the bad is winning the battle, like when you have people at a Baptist church in Texas that are shot while they pray.”
He said they have seen such evil here in the country, with recent murders, instances of child abuse and general division.
“Sometimes, it makes you wonder: are we still the greatest nation on the face of the Earth?” Hassell said before introducing the song.
“It is called ‘O America,’ and it is a prayer. In part of that prayer, it asks the question: can we just all be one? My friends, I’m here to tell you tonight that I believe good will always triumph over evil, that we are still the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, that we are one nation under God, indivisible, and that we are the United States of America.”
For its final selection, the choir sang an arrangement of "God Bless America" and invited the audience to join in the last verse.
Following the choir’s performance, a special presentation was shown, including photos and names of veterans from the local community who have served in the military, from as far back as the Civil War to currently serving service members.
The Mineral Area College Community Band closed out the evening, under the direction of Kurt Bauche. The MAC Community Band performed "Ceremony of Allegiance," "American Fanfare," Holst’s "First Suite in Eb for Military Band," "American the Beautiful" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."
A Kenyan pastor has been welcomed into several churches throughout the area to talk with congregations about his work in Africa and how others can help.
Worshippers Assembly Reverend Daniel Ndung’u said he a preacher of the gospel in Kenya.
“I am overseeing 14 churches across the country and we do church planting in different places,” said Ndung’u. “In the rural areas we do a lot of walking of villages. I came over here to preach the gospel and to encourage the churches in America to continue spreading the good news and to shamelessly talk about their faith in God.”
Ndung’u said that is what he has been doing the last month and a half and he has talked to a number of churches. He added he has two more churches to visit before he goes back home.
“This coming Sunday I will be at the House of Praise and next Sunday I will be at Centenary Methodist Church in Bonne Terre,” said Ndung’u. “This is my third trip to the U.S. I came in 2015 and in 2016. I came to attend conferences and go back home.”
Ndung’u said this time around a friend invited him to visit the area, so that is how he came to St. Francois County.
“I am preaching, alongside of working to raise funds to build a missions resource center in Kenya,” said Ndung’u. “A mission’s resource center will be for training the Christians for mission work, training and equipping them for the mission work in the villages.”
Ndung’u explained they have people in his country that are deep in the bushes that have never heard the gospel. He said they want to build the center to equip the people to go to them and the missionaries will be given training.
“They will be given means of transportation, because that is a challenge, some of the people are unreachable,” said Ndung’u. “Wherever they are, there are no means to get there. So a mission’s resource center, we work towards getting off-road transport that can get the missionaries to the deepest of the villages.”
Ndung’u said they also provide guest houses for missionaries from all over the world and the resource center will provide that.
“We have laid the foundation for the resource center. Back home we do everything manually,” explained Ndung’u. “We don’t have machines, so we are trusting God to give us the machines. We began the construction and have built all the way to the first (level). It is meant to be a three-story building.”
Ndung’u said there will be parking for trucks, a church hall for training and there will be guest houses on the third floor. He added they are working to raise about $300,000 and he is trusting God to help them with the money.
“We are also looking for professionals who would want to come and offer services towards the building of the place,” Ndung’u said. “Also helping with the building of churches in the villages, because some of our churches don’t have places to meet.”
Ndung’u said they have group gatherings for church under a small tent and when it rains the church is completely disrupted.
“So we are seeking help. If somebody would be willing to come and help build the churches physically or even give money to help with the building,” said Ndung’u. “Even give equipment to help with building so it is much easier. By hand it takes a lot of time.”
Ndung’u said that is what he is doing here and he has to go back home to his wife and children and keep doing the work at home.
“So far I have a number people who have made commitments to help us with the work,” said Ndung’u. “What we have not established with them is exactly what extent they would want to help. Within my remaining days I want to sum up every commitment and know exactly what they are giving towards the work.”
Ndung’u said he will put it together and will then know what God has been able to give to them for the work.
“We invite the Christians in this nation to also think about spreading the gospel outside of America,” said Ndung’u. “I have come all the way from Africa and come over speaking about the love of Jesus to the nation of America. We would love also to have Americans to come down to Africa and share the gospel with the people.”
Ndung’u said just sharing the simple message of the cross. He stressed they would really love that.
Ron White, with the mission board at House of Praise Church, said he was hoping to find a way to put together a container of items together to ship over there.
“I was showing him pawn shops where you can buy power tools really cheap and at Harbor Freight you can get solar panels,” said White. “They would be an immediate source for electricity for the power equipment. I bought a complete package of an air compressor, with two nailers and hoses for $149 at Menards.”
White said if people can buy and send things like that it would help. Ndung’u added they are dealing with a needy society in the village.
“Across the board you find people who are desperately in need of clothing,” said Ndung’u. “I have found people living in very poor shacks, a pathetic house. We want to help and pull down those small, tiny shacks and build a decent home for the elderly.”
Ndung’u said tools would be great, clothing will help with the masses, clothes for children, women and men. He hopes for help with the shipping and with the clearing of the area.
“The equipment, power tools would make the work easier, so that whatever project we have we can run faster,” said Ndung’u. “Also if someone could help with drilling a well, some of the people are every desperate about water. Women have to get up every early, like 3 a.m., to go looking for water 20 miles away and back, to bring just 20 liters of water.”
Ndung’u said if they could have a well closer to them, it would be an amazing blessing.
Anyone interested in more information or donating can email Daniel Ndung’u at email@example.com or call +254-722-837-594 and if anyone is interested in traveling to Kenya to help, they can reach Ron White at the House of Praise Church at 573-431-5300.