How the West Texas Boys' Ranch is Recovering from May's Tornado DestructionOpinion
OPINION — Several weeks ago, I started writing about the wonderful staff that work at West Texas Boys Ranch. Their level of commitment, care for each boy in their care and generally the marvelous atmosphere that I have found since I started volunteering at this organization.
Then, on May 18, 2019 at 5 a.m. the ranch was hit by a tornado that did a tremendous amount of damage to the facility. The tornado totally destroyed the gymnasium, which we had just remodeled about five years ago and dedicated it to Rob and Beverly Junnell. That building is only half there with the back half spread around it and through the front.
Doss cottage was hit hard and it picked up a carport and set it on the other side of the cottage causing the roof to cave in and briefly trapping a young man in his room. We could not get him out and had to get the fire department out to raise the roof enough for him to escape. Fortunately, he was not hurt and did have a colorful story to tell about his rescue. Every roof at the ranch was damaged. The integrity of three buildings were compromised and we will have to tear them down and replace them. This will make for a total of four buildings having to be razed and one building having extensive work performed on it. But, we look for the positive through all of this and we did not have one boy hurt, we are so very thankful for that.
Once we determined the extent of the damage, which was approximately one hour later, and started working to clean up we started having people show up to help us. We even had one man who has a place down the road from the boys’ ranch who came and helped. When asked if he had any damage he said he did but he figured we needed his help more, so he came and volunteered. The number of people who literally put their lives on hold for a day was staggering and the amount of work accomplished was even more so. We worked hard on Saturday and then almost as many people came out to help after church on Sunday.
One must keep in mind that we have never experienced anything like this before and we were working in a new area. We knew that people in the Concho Valley and this area of Texas were generous as is evidenced by the fact we are 72 years old and not having to depend on State or Federal funding. Providing a change in life and an opportunity to live to their full potential has been made possible solely through the kindness of people that want to help young men.
It was truly amazing to watch the volunteers coming to help with the clean up of the damage done just a few hours before. Individuals brought trailers, pickups, and a willingness to do whatever was necessary to help the boys get back to the living conditions they had. In one way, we were truly shocked then we felt blessed and finally we realized that people were just good and wanted to help their fellow man especially a bunch of boys.
We have finally talked to all of the insurance companies, secured bids to either raze buildings or repair them and last week finally started with the removal of damaged or destroyed buildings. This will not be a quick process and will take some time. Even though we have insurance it will not be enough to put everything back the way it was. Yes, we can rebuild structures but all of the little things that go into a home is left to be purchased. This will be done! We have already started looking at ways we might be able to find extra monies to do this and feel confident that it will be accomplished.
We started this brief article just to say “Thank You” to all the people who helped us that eventful weekend. As we wrote it we realized that it was truly lacking the emotion and thankfulness we really felt. There simply is not a way we can describe to the readers how humble this has been for the staff here at West Texas Boys Ranch. After 72 years of being here helping young men we realize through a tornado that we are still as vibrant and healthy as we were in 1947 with people giving of their time when needed.
If you feel that you can contribute any money at all to the ranch, then we would very much appreciate it. As is always the case, we will be good stewards of your contribution and make sure it goes as far as possible. The administration of WTBR makes no excuses for our operating a very tight budget. That is because we are handling someone’s money that thought enough of what is happening in young men’s lives to contribute. We will welcome any size contribution you might see fit to make and truly appreciate it. If you would like to contribute to West Texas Boys Ranch then our mailing address is 10223 Boys Ranch Road, San Angelo, Texas 76904. Our website is www.wtbr.org.
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