As they sit on the sofa under the vaulted ceiling in the living room, Joshua and Sara Whitten look at home and comfortable. The family’s black Labrador retriever, Gunner flops down next to them on the floor.
Josh SaraThe Whittens moved into the house on the Chosen Ranch over Labor Day weekend. They and their three children, Colton, 10; Madelyne, 16 and Noah, 18 have lived in Alcona County since 2010 when they moved from Rochester Hills, Mich. They both attended Rochester Hills Christian School – Josh graduated in 1994 and Sara in 1995 – and dated during high school. They were married in 1996. Prior to moving to northeastern Michigan, Josh worked in a job that involved a lot of travel and time away from home. While the idea of living up north was a goal, it wasn’t an immediate goal until their youngest son, Colton, told Josh that he wanted “a real dad” who wasn’t away from home all the time.
That’s when they made “a quality of life decision” to move north. The transition was made a bit easier as Josh’s parents (Wayne and Anna Whitten) already lived in Harrisville and Sara also had family in the area. While they were looking for a place to live, Josh looked at the home they just moved into. It was not financially feasible, but, it stuck with him.
Coincidentally, he also ended up making service calls at the house for the previous owner in his capacity as an employee of Big Moose Home Inspection. Then a prospective buyer of the property contacted him to do an inspection. The prospective buyer was Frank Dimecurio and he shared his vision of the Chosen Ranch with Josh.
“I spent the day with Frank here at the Ranch,” Josh said. “It was a cold, blustery day, but it was very exciting to hear his ideas.”
“Since we came up here, we had wanted to do something for kids,” Sara said. “Our thoughts and ideas were very parallel in comparison. And we were very excited about what was going on.”
More discussion, becoming involved and a lot of prayer followed. “Our prayers were ‘how can we be used in this capacity?’ I knew very well that this was God’s will to be involved,” Sara said. Josh agreed. “We asked ‘what more can we do?’”
The answer came when it was decided that Jamie and Joy Bullis, both board members of the Chosen Ranch, were not going to be the house parents as originally planned.
Jamie Bullis, assistant executive director, said he and his wife, Joy realized that with the administrative responsibilities with the Chosen Ranch program that was growing and developing rapidly, they would not be able to give the time required as house parents.
“Joy and I were very excited to take on that role to help kids, but we have a lot of responsibility as it relates to our administrative roles. It would be unfair to the kids if we tried to do both. It was a change in roles. We recognized and realized that we could not be there for everyone. It’s actually a blessing (now) – we get to deal with all of the kids that come into the program, not just a few.”
Jamie explained that he and Joy will be developing programs for all youth at the Chosen Ranch and overseeing house parents and providing respite care as well. “We sought wisdom and got it from folks who have done this a very long time. There is no sense in trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Once the interview process and background checks were completed, Sara and Josh had to make some considerations in preparation for their move and additional responsibilities. “God put us here… God will make it work out,” Sara said.