Goshen home provides peaceful, safe environment for young men
by Zack McKenzie, Special to the Cherokee Tribune
March 15, 2014 09:54 PM | 3086 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Goshen Valley Boys Ranch Residential Life Director Zach Blend enjoys a quiet walk around the farm Friday in Waleska with residents Demarcus Jordan and Cody Erickson as they enjoy the warm mountain weather at the facility Blend’s parents John and Connie started years ago. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Goshen Valley Boys Ranch Residential Life Director Zach Blend enjoys a quiet walk around the farm Friday in Waleska with residents Demarcus Jordan and Cody Erickson as they enjoy the warm mountain weather at the facility Blend’s parents John and Connie started years ago.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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Blend checks out one of the homes that house up to 40 young men, offering them the peace and tranquility of the mountains outside Waleska. Blend’s parents, John and Connie, started the boys home several years ago as a way of giving back to youth without a support system.
Blend checks out one of the homes that house up to 40 young men, offering them the peace and tranquility of the mountains outside Waleska. Blend’s parents, John and Connie, started the boys home several years ago as a way of giving back to youth without a support system.
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Goshen Valley Boys Ranch House Parent John Rowe talks with Justin Warren, left, and Payton Woodall at the pasture outside the James House Educational Center, located outside Waleska.
Goshen Valley Boys Ranch House Parent John Rowe talks with Justin Warren, left, and Payton Woodall at the pasture outside the James House Educational Center, located outside Waleska.
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Blend remembers the peaceful childhood he had with his parents, John and Connie, on their farm located outside Waleska. The picture he is holding at the ranch was taken in the pasture behind him when he was just a couple years old. He now works to offer that same peaceful surrounding to young boys and men that need help getting their lifes back on track.
Blend remembers the peaceful childhood he had with his parents, John and Connie, on their farm located outside Waleska. The picture he is holding at the ranch was taken in the pasture behind him when he was just a couple years old. He now works to offer that same peaceful surrounding to young boys and men that need help getting their lifes back on track.
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The Goshen Valley Boys Ranch in northeast Cherokee County offers a safe place to live for boys taken from unsafe environments.

Many of the boys have been traumatized by abandonment, neglect, abuse or violence, or death or loss of their primary caregiver, those who work at the local Boys Ranch said.

The ranch serves as an alternative to a traditional foster home care, said Rachel Blend, who works in community outreach at the ranch. The ranch’s environment offers a positive alternative for the youngsters that helps them lead a more productive life than many find after foster care.

“Most kids that leave foster care at 18 become homeless or in jail,” Blend said.

There are 35 boys now living at the ranch, each in a house on the ranch with about six boys per house. To better capture the family environment each house is equipped with a parent couple to care for and guide the boys while they are at home, Blend said.

While the boys live at the ranch, their lives are made as normal as possible, she said. They all attend public school. This year, Goshen Valley had a record number of boys participate in varsity sports: five in football and five in wrestling. The older boys can get jobs during the summer and usually help around the ranch.

The ranch has three main goals for every boy. The top priority is to reunite them with their families, Blend said.

Most of boys have little to no contact with their families, but about one-third are on a path to be reunited with their families.

The second objective is to get the boys adopted. Most of the families that adopt boys are usually from volunteers at the ranch. The third goal is to transition them into the New Georgia New Beginnings program.

New Georgia New Beginnings is a sister program for young adults ages 18 to 21. New Georgia New Beginnings is an independent living program that facilitates the transition into adulthood for many of the unadopted boys.

The New Beginnings program is allowing girls for the first time this year. The program teaches skills necessary to support oneself, Blend said.

The young adults live in apartments in Canton that are paid for by the program and are supported, but face strict rules until they prove to be responsible and are able to be self-sufficient, she said. As they grow older, they become more independent, eventually leaving the program.

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