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OC Rescue Mission gets help on new working ranch for homeless programs

Close to 300 volunteers spent Wednesday, June 8, painting, building and planting on 35 acres of hilly, fertile earth tucked in Silverado Canyon.

The workers were converting the former site of a monastery into a respite for formerly homeless men, woman and families.

The Orange County Rescue Mission, a faith-based nonprofit based in Tustin that provides a variety of services to its clients, many of whom are military veterans, purchased the property to be the new home of its Double R Ranch.

The new location will replace the rescue mission’s 142-acre ranch in Warner Springs, in northern San Diego County.

When completed later this year, the working ranch will house up to 141 men and offer equestrian therapy, life skills education, job training, counseling and case management.

The campus will also provide additional services and programs for homeless women and children living at the nonprofit’s other campuses, as well as veterans.

“To bring people back out to nature and actually have to learn how to do things is such a powerful tool in their recovery,” OC Rescue Mission President Jim Palmer said.  “We’ve been wanting to do this for a while. (The Warner Springs location) is too much of a distance to use it for Orange County.”

The rescue mission purchased the Silverado Canyon location from St. Michael’s Abbey, which operated a monastery at the property for 60 years.

St. Michael’s Abbey has since built a new home for its Norbertine Order priests about eight miles away on a 327-acre former ranch on Silverado Canyon Road.

Volunteers spent the day Wednesday cutting back brush and doing landscaping to help prevent fires, painting structures, building fencing and constructing a barn, chicken coop and an outdoor gathering area.

Alan Wood, 57, a resident of the rescue mission’s Veterans Outpost in Tustin, was among 50 veterans volunteering.

Struggling with depression and homelessness, Wood said he made his way to the rescue mission after being helped by an Orange County Sheriff’s Department homeless outreach officer.

“It only feels right to give back,” Wood said of taking the day off from his job as a courier to volunteer. “This is going to be a lot for the next guy. That is what helping is. It is helping someone that you don’t know in the future to make their life easier on their transitional period from being a homeless veteran to be a productive member of society.”

Wood served six years with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines regiment in Camp Lejeune North Carolina before discharging in 1989.

Volunteer Luke Hudson, who also lives at the Veterans Outpost, served in the Marines from 2004 to 2008, including a tour in Iraq in 2005.

A native of Oklahoma, Hudson said he became addicted to heroin and methamphetamine, winding up in the Orange County Jail.

He reached out to the veterans organization, which helped him get into a rehab facility.

Hudson took a day off from his job working on classic cars to volunteer at the ranch and “give back.”

“What I’ve been freely given by my God and this program is to be able to be present in my own life and be of serve to other people, and when I am asked to be of service in any capacity, and I’m able to do it, I show up,” Hudson said.  “Because that is what I am able to do today.”

The work Wednesday on helping prepare the Double R ranch was organized and funded by the Home Depot Foundation, the company’s nonprofit arm that serves several veterans causes.

Most of the volunteers were Home Depot employees or partners of the foundation, said Gabriel Sneller, projects manager for foundation.

Between materials and labor, Sneller estimates that the Double R project cost about $500,000.

“We heard what they were doing for formerly homeless veterans and it aligned perfectly with the mission of the Home Depot Foundation,” Sneller said. “One of the pillars of our foundation is to give back to veterans and improve the community.”

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