Freedom Gates Boys Ranch offers hope one boy at a time, four-year-old inspires the older kids
Annual Fundraising Hamburger Feed and Auction July 17 at Heritage Center in Medicine Lodge
July 7, 2021
It's been a while since we checked in to the ranch – the Freedom Gates Boys Ranch that is, located in Hazelton, Kansas.
Michael Simpson has devoted a good portion of his adult life to helping troubled young boys discover a feeling of purpose and significance in their own life. For numerous years now he's been a part of this home for boys that teaches Christian values, a work ethic, how families are supposed to function with love and respect for one another, how to overcome adversity and much more.
“After being here a while, one of the boys told me, `Life doesn't have to be awful forever,'” Simpson said. “The majority of the boys come from broken homes – have either divorced parents, were adopted, or were a victim of the foster care system. “It's so hard for our guys to build trust because of what they've lived in when part of foster care.”
In November of 2019 Michael and his wife Ariel and their two sons: Mikey now age 7 and Jesse now age 4, became full-time house parents at the ranch. He was still working full time in the oilfield for his Dad at Simpsons Welding in Kiowa. On March 15, 2020 Michael stopped working for his dad and started full time as the Director of FGBR.
The FGBR board hired him. Members are: James Littlefield, Alva; Will Schmucker, Medicine Lodge; Dennis Blake, Hazelton; Ron Phipps, Medicine Lodge; Tom Foulkrod, Medicine Lodge; Chantae Simpson, Kiowa; and Ron Allenbach, Kiowa.
Fundraiser Proceeds Go Toward New Building Project
Simpson just keeps growing the ranch. For several years the boys attended school at South Barber in Kiowa. They continued doing virtual schooling with SB in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic. Then last fall Simpson said they changed to keep education on campus. They do this through Kansas Southwinds Academy, a virtual school.
Simpson said his sister-in-law Gabriel Simpson recently earned a teaching degree and is the single full-time teacher. He said they have a few paras and he and his wife help along with their farm/ranch foreman Kody Haas. Michael said he and Ariel run the cooking and field operations.
The proceeds from the annual fundraiser will go toward FGBR new building project, a 6000 square foot campus center.
FGBR's annual fundraising hamburger feed and auction is Saturday, July 17 in Medicine Lodge at the Heritage Center. The meal is served at 5:30 p.m., followed by the auction at 6:30. Some of the items donated for the auction so far include: tool sets, rifles, shotguns, gift baskets, gift certificates, etc.
“A guy offered us a new building for about a third of the price. Another man offered to build it at cost. One church offered to pay for the concrete. We are blessed with people just wanting to be a part of the project,” Simpson said.
It's a steel frame building that will be located near the “Blue House,” FGBR's first residence in the middle of Hazelton. A Mennonite group volunteered and helped with renovations to expand housing in the former Hazelton School Building in the summer of 2019. Simpson said that they completed that second residence last year during COVID. “It's amazing what we were able to accomplish despite COVID,” he said. With Simpson's directions he and the boys do many of the building renovations themselves.
“God blessed us with some good people,” Simpson said. Former longtime houseparents, Dennis and Nancy Blake, are officially retired but still do some grandparent-type activities with the boys occasionally, he explained.
FGBR Needs People to Help and Work With the Boys
`We Need the Missionaries'
Although FGBR has expanded their housing facilities, they can't find the additional help needed to expand the number of boys in the program.
FGBR currently has six boys enrolled in the program. The mandatory time for boys to stay at the ranch is an 18-month commitment. Most kids stay two years, Simpson said and added, “We are a surrogate family for some of these boys who sometimes come back after graduating the program. Maybe when things aren't working for them at home; or they lose a job, etc.” While the boys are at the ranch, their family visits are encouraged once/month depending on the family.
Because it's so hard to get help, Simpson said he has to turn away three kids/week out of a 60 to 150 mile circle from this area. “I now have 12 applications on my desk.” “Right now we are trying to find more people to help. We advertise constantly. The need is so huge. My wife says it the best – We need the missionaries.”
FGBR provides everything for the boys – clothes, shoes, everything. “We use the General Store (in Kiowa) a lot. We are blessed. Boys go through lots of clothes fast. I can't say enough good about that place. They are really good people.”
Now that FGBR added school on campus – add in costs like staff, meals, therapy and all services provided, it takes about $2800/boy each month,” Simpson said, adding, “It's honestly month by month,” that the ranch operates financially. He thanked the churches, corporations, people organizing and donating to fundraisers, and some individuals who give larger gifts.
Longtime FGBR supporter Darwin Gates of Hazelton passed away last spring. “Darwin left everything he had into a trust – the boys ranch is beneficiary of that trust. It was extremely generous,” Simpson said. “Darwin was a good friend of the ranch.”
From Farm Work and Trail Rides to the Swimming Hole and Prayer Time
The Simpson's boys were age two and five when the family moved in as houseparents. “The boys ranch has been a fantastic thing because the big boys see the family dynamic. The big boys really love my boys. They protect my kids – they make it a responsibility. They see the same discipline, the same affection, the same routine every day. We pray together with each boy. We give them safety.”
“The big boys comment on no matter how tough their morning may go, my little Jesse wakes up happy with a smile. The boys say it's hard not to be happy when Jesse is so happy!”
The FGBR daily routine includes education and activities such as: farm work, lots of mowing, riding horses, trail rides (some of the boys like rodeo) and time for fun. This summer they love to swim in the Anthony lake, both the older and younger kids. They swim and camp, their favorite activity, at Canton Lake plus on private land west of Medicine. “We do lots of sports stuff together – basketball, archery, anything they guys are interested in. I would still like to offer competitive sports for the boys. But I can't with the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) rules.” He's seeking alternatives.
“Like farmers, we need help so we can take more kids and give them hope. This is one of the most important things I've done. When you see a boy who came to us with all sorts of troubles and when he's leaving as a person of character and honor, knowing he can trust God without knowing all the answers, you feel proud. When we can send a guy out knowing they can call us. That's what you want for your own kids. They don't have that security in their own home.”
Simpson said, “Our goal is to insure that each boy in our care develops a feeling of purpose and significance in their own life. We're going to try.”