Jerry and Judy Horton, founders of Down Home Ranch, created an organization that serves people who face disabilities and gives them a safe place to live, work and thrive.
The idea came after their fourth child, Kelly was born and was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Being worried about how her life would be after she flew the nest, they began researching for places that would help encourage her success by giving her resources to provide sustainability for herself.
Their journey began in 1989 when the couple visited different facilities, some of which inspired their organization. Two years later, they purchased land in Elgin, Texas, and thus created a haven for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Currently, the ranch totals 410 acres in size and is home to 48 permanent residents, or Ranchers, as they are called. The organization hosts programs throughout the year and encourages visitors with IDD from across the Central Texas area. This gives them the opportunity to socialize, earn money for their work, and even promotes their small businesses by allowing them to sell on the property.
The Ranchers typically work Monday through Friday, nine to five, and participate in their day program, which includes several activities and cultural outings. Physical activity is also implemented, as health is an important factor to both the Ranchers and their families.
While many of the Rancher's jobs are on the property and include working with the animals, taking care of buildings, or in the kitchen, some decide to pursue jobs off the land. A few of them work in town at HEB, the library, and even the rec center.
The residential program includes a few different options, with the first one being onsite at the ranch and includes four intermediate care facilities with live-in staff, according to Texas CEO Magazine. The ranch also provides Ranchers the opportunity to live in their own micro houses, which aims to encourage them to build independence. The last option is three community-based homes around the city of Elgin.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic did impact their day-to-day operations, Down Home Ranch quickly pivoted and centered their activities around the outdoors, encouraging Ranchers to use the basketball court, pool, or even go for a walk.
Anyone looking to get involved and supports the workers at Down Home Ranch can shop their products at downhomeranch.org!
Photo courtesy of DownHome Ranch.