From vision to enterprise, Texas Boys Ranch endures 45 years - FOX34 Lubbock

From vision to enterprise, Texas Boys Ranch endures 45 years

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The Texas Boys Ranch, a non-profit foster care, adoption, and shelter organization, is celebrating its 45th year of service on the South Plains. Its annual telethon is Saturday, Aug. 8, where it will accept charitable contributions to continue its life-changing work -- the same kind of support that helped build it up over the past four and a half decades.

A shouting match with God

In 1972, a ranch-hand named Johnny Moffitt lost his job at the Forrest family 'breed farm' in northeast Lubbock County; he had a pregnant wife and a four-year-old son at the time, making him distraught over the loss of income. Moffitt said he was angry at God after the ranch owner told him the decision, and sat under a tree at the edge of the property to vent about it.

In his words, God shouted back at Moffitt.

"He told me 'if you'll stop suckin' on that and start chewin' on that, I'll show you somethin'," Moffitt said in a Zoom interview. "Then, i opened my eyes and I literally saw those cottages that are there today."

Moffitt said that gave him his mission.

"I told my wife, I said 'God is telling us to start this 'boys ranch,'" Moffitt said with a chuckle, then continued. "She said 'great, how do you do it?' And I said 'I don't have a clue. I left God sittin' under a tree back there before He told me how to do it.'"

With some help from his friends, Moffitt took his vision to Lubbock's business owners and faith leaders. Over the next two years, they formed an organization and a board, raised donations, and set the groundwork for what would become the Texas Boys Ranch.

"God's building a boys ranch."

In 1973, a farmer donated the first bale of cotton ginned in Lubbock County. From that, the fledgling organization had hundreds of small ornaments made with plaques to advertise the ranch project; those made their way to desks, lobbies, and tables as far as the Metroplex. Donors contributed large sums in capital, but a ranch isn't a ranch without land -- and Moffitt said he couldn't find any.

In late 1974, a familiar rancher called Moffitt and said he wanted to donate a piece of property. Moffitt originally suspected the rancher meant a plot of his mostly-vertical holdings near Slaton.

"He said, 'no, I'm talking about this property out here east of the airport,'" Moffitt recalled. "And I thought 'whoa, he's talking about the property I used to live on!'"

The Forrest breed farm -- where Moffitt originally had his first vision for the project -- became the site for the Texas Boys Ranch; an undeveloped piece of property with an elaborate, large irrigation system and no other infrastructure.

As part of the deal, Moffitt had to get a road built to connect the property, so he went to the largest road-builder in Lubbock County: the government. County Commissioners approved the project, and within a week Moffitt recalled bulldozers clearing the land for a fully-paved, county-maintained road, complete with bar ditches. 

"We had a half-mile of road to nowhere! It just went out there and stopped," Moffitt said, laughing at the memory. "We was tellin' everybody 'God's building a Boys Ranch.' 'Where?' 'Right there at the end of that road.'"

The ranch had enough capital to build the concrete slab and foundation for its first cottage in late 1974 and early 1975; however, there wasn't enough money for the wood to complete the home. Moffitt turned to prayer, standing on the slab, asking God to provide.

"In 20 yards, as we walked from the slab to the road," Moffitt said, "I looked up and down that county road came a 18-wheeler truck loaded with all the lumber we needed to build that cottage."

In 1975, the ranch placed its first child.

Moffitt stepped down shortly after to further his education, saying he felt he had stepped out of his element when he found himself at meetings across the state discussing child care and juvenile justice. Moffitt went on to the Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, then received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vision University, in California, in November of 2005. He now directs Worldwide Voice in the Wilderness Ministries and lives in Richardson.

Overcoming adversity

The next 26 years of operation at the Texas Boys Ranch were rough. By 1995, the non-profits funds were drying up, and it turned to a partnership with the Children's Home of Lubbock to keep the ranch active.

By 2001, the situation was getting dire: there was only one cottage open with one pair of house parents. The Children's Home tasked John Sigle with salvaging the operation.

"I did that with every plan to return to the Children's Home of Lubbock," Sigle recalled from his office at the ranch. "What actually happened, though, I fell in love with the Texas Boys Ranch."

Sigle took over the operation in January 2002. 

"I also knew I wasn't going to be the man really in charge," he said with a smile. "We decided we were going to seek God's favor first, and once we did that, doors started opening, things started happening."

By May, capacity at the ranch tripled.

Under Sigle's leadership, the ranch converted its operating model from serving juvenile justice to providing a home for children in the Texas foster care system, sheltering, teaching, and raising children who'd been victims of abuse and neglect.

The ranch served boys only until 2010, when a caseworker asked Sigle to place a family of five, including three girls. Sigle recalled the phone call that helped him make that decision with a chuckle, saying the state representative gave him an hour to come pick up a new license that allowed it to care for girls.

In 2014, the ranch added its adoption center and emergency shelters, both critical aspects of its mission to rescue and provide homes for abused and neglected children.

The future

Sigle said he has many plans for the future of the boys ranch, including adding counseling services for families who want to get their children back rather than allow them to go into adoption.

"When I first got into this business," Sigle said with a shake of his head, "I thought 'these parents are just bad parents.'

"I was wrong," he concluded. "I was so completely wrong."

Like the past 48 years, that work will only be possible with donations and charitable contributions.

The 45th Annual Texas Boys Ranch Telethon is Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on FOX34, from the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts. There will be musical guests and online auctions -- including a football signed by NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes -- hosted by James Eppler, Kristin Carol, and Matt Ernst.

There won't be a viewing audience this year for safety concerns. You can watch on FOX34, in the FOX34 News App, and on our Facebook page. You can also show your support for the Ranch's fundraising by using #TBRTelethon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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