A cool breeze passes over the open ground between the pasture toward a large home with a peaked roof. Tall pines sway slightly, seemingly whispering to each other in a language only a few might understand. A doe grazes slowly ambling across an open field as two fawns with fading spots follow energetically bucking and bouncing around her. Two horses grazing in the pasture barely glance up as cars begin to wind their way up the long, dirt driveway toward the house. Car doors open and close as teenagers exit.
As more cars come and go, the crowd of young people grows as does the sound of happy chatter and laughter which echoes off of the trees and carries across the field. The deer meander into the woods. Adults are interspersed among the youth. After a while, they all walk inside the building adjacent from the house, up the stairs where they are led in prayer and into the lesson of the evening. The second week of the newly formed youth group at the Chosen Ranch begins.
An hour later the group tromps down the stairs, piles into cars and heads to Alcona High School to watch the volleyball game. Thirty plus people – youth and adults from the Chosen Ranch – cheer for the Lady Tigers on their home court.
A couple of days later, several miles west of the Chosen Ranch, the thump of a basketball and muted laughter drift over the manicured lawn and neat flower gardens and fade into the surrounding woods. The sun drifts toward the horizon and the aroma of slow cooking food wafts through the open screen on the front door where two fishing poles lean against the porch railing. Inside the home, through the kitchen, the dining room table is set for eight. When “dinner” is called, the basketball is forgotten and a flurry of footsteps and bits of conversation diminish in volume as hands are washed, food is placed on the table and two teenagers, two neighboring pre-teenagers and four adults settle around the table. Heads bow in prayer and silence invades the room as one soft, but strong voice gives thanks for the blessings bestowed upon those present.
This is the home of Frank and Jinny Dimercurio, founders of the Chosen Ranch. The two teenage boys seated at their table are the first young men to be part of the program which is designed to provide a home for youth who need a second chance at living with parents who love and care for them.
Less than one year ago, with the vision of having a home, with house parents to make a family and support of the community, the Dimercurios put up everything they had to make their vision a reality. In February, the home on 160 acres north of Harrisville on Beaton Road was purchased; and more than 1,500 volunteer hours and countless dollars, including donated funds, services and items, were put into the house, (which had been vacant for several years before it was purchased), other buildings and the property.
As of September 5, Joshua and Sara Whitten and their family moved into the home at the Chosen Ranch and are ready and waiting for young men who will live with them there. Dimercurio explained the mission at the Chosen Ranch is to Love children, to protect them, to treat them with Dignity and provide a Christian Home where they can thrive and grow.
“We believe with all of our hearts, that when a child is provided with a proper home, with parents that are there when they get up in the morning and when they go to bed at night, are loved unconditionally, are clean, well fed and are shown the love of Christ on a daily basis, they will thrive and become productive members of our society,” he said.
Just exactly how that was to happen was not completely clear at the time, but it became clearer and more solid as more people got involved and became committed to their vision. “What looked like a mountainous task just nine months ago has blossomed into a very manageable and rewarding task and the place looks beautiful,” Dimercurio said. “The house parents have been moved in, the beds are all in place, the grounds have all been manicured (at least still under construction) and now we are waiting for God to send the finances for us to be able to move some more children into the home and help rescue them from some pretty sad situations.
“We have already been blessed with two young boys who are now living with my wife and me, and have become a part of our family. It was originally intended for them to move over to the Chosen Ranch when it was completed but I am afraid that we will not be able to peel them away from us even though they are front and center in the Chosen Program. There God goes again, laughing at us as we try to tell him our plans. Just like he must of been laughing at Virginia and me when we were discussing years ago on how we were going to spend our retirement years,” he said.
While all of the work was going on to repair and improve the buildings and property at the Chosen Ranch, young men and women were coming and going from the place all summer as they participated in boys and girls summer programs. The girls program, which began for the first time this summer, had six to eight regular participants who spent two hours a week for 12 weeks with Bible study and discussion for the first hour or so; the rest of the time was spent in activities that enforces a positive self-image and self-esteem. They also worked with the two equine residents of the Chosen Ranch, Storm and Sampson, throughout the summer. At the end of the summer they spent several volunteer hours at Lost Lake Woods Club then went horseback riding, swimming and ended the day with a picnic.
The boys program, where young men met one day a week for 12 weeks, included roughly an hour of Bible study and discussion and instruction on wilderness survival for the second hour. The final week culminated in a 48-hour wilderness camping trip where the boys used their skills in a remote area of Alcona County.
Jamie Bullis, assistant executive director of the Chosen Ranch and lead mentor of the boys summer program, said several men who had the intention of being support for the boys ended up being much more involved. “Some of them started out listening on the outer edge of the circle and ended up in the circle participating, Bullis said. “And, a few of them completed the 48-hour wilderness camping trip.”
That is not an unfamiliar occurrence – starting out as a supporter and stepping into the circle to become involved. Dimercurio, Bullis and other board members have witnessed time and again in the last nine months.
“People, churches, organizations, businesses – have openly supported us financially, spiritually, in giving their time and in words of encouragement,” Dimercurio said. “It’s been a joy to come together for a greater good – to watch the community come together to help with this effort. People will do whatever the Lord puts in their heart – whatever they can and we are so very thankful and appreciative.”
Bullis echoed Dimercurio’s sentiment, “God works… It’s his timing not ours. We are just tools in the tool box… We would have never expected this to come along this far this soon… The support has been overwhelming – from the people who just stop in (at the Chosen Ranch) because they’ve heard about it, to the folks who come to our fellowships, to the people that we talk to as we are out in the community – it is amazing,” he said.
He is often asked to talk about the Chosen Ranch at area churches and organizations’ meetings. He has had about a dozen speaking engagements in the last month. “Whenever we have an opportunity to talk at a church or anywhere it seems to ignite a new fire in people who are just hearing about the Chosen Ranch. It’s exciting. People get wound up and want to help. It’s been cool,” Bullis said.
The Chosen Ranch is hosting a free public event on the property on Saturday, Sept. 26. The Fall Fellowship will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. and will include children’s games and activities (all afternoon), a graduation ceremony for the boys summer program (around 3 p.m.), tours of the house and property (all afternoon), fire safety demonstrations by local fire departments (all afternoon), and a wildlife educational program by Wildlife Recovery Association, a wildlife rehabilitation organization who works with birds of prey (at 4 p.m.).
For more about the Chosen Ranch see the website: www.chosenranch.org or the Facebook page: Chosen Ranch or call (989) 464-9394.