May 24, 2023

Creating a community of opportunity

Located on 410 acres just outside of Elgin, Texas, Down Home Ranch is a working farm and ranch with one mission–to empower the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) through social, educational, residential and vocational opportunities.

Down Home RanchDown Home Ranch was founded in 1989 by Judy and Jerry Horton, parents of a young daughter with Down syndrome. The Hortons looked at what future resources looked like for their daughter, and when they realized their options were slim, they decided to create a place where people with IDDs could be a part of a community with other people they could relate to. 

The ranch began as a camp with the goal to become a residential program for individuals with IDDs, and over the last 33 years, Down Home Ranch has grown to 50 residents, also known as ranchers.

Since its inception, Down Home Ranch has been committed to supporting the families of people with IDDs and providing them with the comfort of knowing that their family members will not only be taken care of, but will have the opportunity to live a prosperous life.

Providing support through vocational opportunities and training

For many individuals with IDDs, support often stops once the individual graduates high school. Because of this lack of support, the unemployment rate for adults with IDDs is more than twice the rate of adults without disabilities. 

Part of the vision for Down Home Ranch is to provide support and opportunities for the ranchers to work and earn an income if they so choose, and empower them to make decisions and have control over their lives. 

In order to provide these opportunities for the ranchers, Down Home Ranch offers both on-site and off-site vocational programs that give the ranchers the option to choose a job that fits their interests. 

Down Home RanchThrough the on-site vocational program, ranchers can apply for a job they’d like on the ranch and then go through an interviewing, hiring and training process that mirrors the same experience they’d have with securing a job off-site. However, many ranchers at Down Home Ranch have already worked every job the ranch has to offer, leading them to desire new job experiences. To provide diverse experiences, Down Home Ranch has been expanding its off-site vocational program over the last six years.

About 15 of Down Home Ranch’s 50 residents participate in the off-site vocational program. Through this program, the ranchers are able to apply for jobs within the city of Elgin with companies like H-E-B or the Elgin Recreation Center, go through the hiring and training processes and work within the community. These employment opportunities allow for socialization and help individuals with IDDs build confidence and feel the impacts of being part of a community. 

According to Down Home Ranch executive director, Craig Russell, that’s been the goal all along. 

“The question for us was ‘how do you define when an individual is part of a community,’” said Russell. “And what we came back with was ‘when they’re missed when they aren’t there.’ That’s how we define community and that’s what we aim to achieve for our ranchers.”

Kelly Clarke, Down Home Ranch development director, agreed that this is one of the most impactful things about Down Home Ranch. 

“The ranchers pride themselves on giving back and actively being part of the community. Seeing the ranchers take pride in things they’ve been involved in around town is awesome,” said Clarke. “There’s no greater joy than seeing the joy of the ranchers. They just exude happiness.”  

Support from Texas Mutual

In 2022, Texas Mutual awarded $3.5 million in grants to nearly 50 nonprofit organizations around the state making an impact on the Texas workforce. It was through this grant effort that Texas Mutual was connected with Down Home Ranch. 

Down Home Ranch

Rancher Travis (left) and Rancher Crystal (right) pose in front of the Down Home Ranch Rancher portrait wall, which features portraits of current and former ranchers.

Thanks in part to the funding received through Texas Mutual, Down Home Ranch has been able to expand the program and provide training and certification through the Texas Workforce Commission to allow for two job coaches on staff to guide the ranchers through their job duties. Each job coach works with the ranchers’ employers to get an understanding of job duties and then works with the ranchers to break down those duties into easily digestible tasks. The job coaches then go with the rancher to his or her job and provides one-on-one support to help transition them into being self-sufficient within their roles. 

Expanding the off-site vocational program with the addition of job coaches and providing these opportunities for the ranchers would not be possible without support from the community and from generous donors like Texas Mutual. 

Down Home Ranch has cultivated a program that not only benefits the ranchers, but also provides a unique opportunity to strengthen Texas’ workforce. Texas Mutual is inspired by the work Down Home Ranch is doing and is proud to support the off-site vocational program. 

Explore programs from Down Home Ranch and learn more about 2023 community funding for nonprofits.  

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