Land donation sets stage for foster care model

For years, Judy Huls Singleton dreamed of helping hurting children in need.

Singleton, a retired Clark County educator of 35 years, saw many children go through the foster care system. She saw siblings torn apart from one another, and students in need of a loving, caring home.

Though, as a teacher, her reach was limited.

“God laid on my heart that I could do more with the kids,” Singleton said.

So she made a promise to her father to one day utilize their Winchester family farm in a way that benefited either children or animals. She chose to help children, especially those in foster care.

Her vision turned to a plan of action in 2011 following her retirement from Clark County Public Schools.

But for a few years, nothing seemed to solidify. In early 2016, Singleton was nearly ready to give up, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t so she prayed and asked God to take the lead.

And He did, she said.

Now, thanks to her 130-acre land donation to Sunrise Children’s Services, her God-given vision for the Solid Rock Children’s Ranch is becoming a reality.

“This is God’s plan,” Singleton said.

Sunrise Children’s Services offers Kentucky’s hurting children and families a continuum

of Christ-centered care, including therapeutic, residential and foster care programs for abused,

abandoned and victimized children throughout the state, according to a press release.

Sunrise’s nearly 150-year-old nonprofit ministry is a fully licensed behavioral health service organization helping change the lives of at-risk children throughout the Commonwealth.

Today, Sunrise serves more than 1,200 individuals in some capacity, Melissa Bailey, director of marketing at Sunrise Children’s Services, said.

Singleton said she first heard of Sunrise a few years ago. She knew the organization was faith-based, had a rich history of helping children and had an extensive network of support in Kentucky. Singleton went on to meet with Randy Greene, special grants coordinator for Sunrise, in 2016.

The pair hit it off, and Singleton officially signed her land over to Sunrise in 2017.

In May, Sunrise erected a sign signifying the future home of Solid Rock Children’s Ranch at 1956 Stoner-Ephesus Road in Winchester.

It is there a community of care will eventually be established to provide safe and loving homes that keep at-risk sibling groups together in a foster care setting — the first of its kind.

“This is not only a generous donation to Sunrise, but an incredible gift to Clark County that

brings a forward-thinking child welfare model to this area of the state,” Greene said in a press release. “Since Judy made this sacrificial gift to our ministry. We’ve been sharing the Solid Rock vision and her story with churches and other groups throughout the region to generate financial support for the project.”

Bailey said keeping siblings together in the foster care system can be a challenge.

“It can be a challenge because of homes not being large enough or parents not being willing or equipped to take on multiple children at one time,” she said. “And so what you find is that those siblings are put into different placements, and that’s what we don’t want to see happen.”

Sunrise is now in the fundraising stage of the project, Bailey said.

“It is instrumental that we raise the necessary funds obviously before we can break ground on what will be the Solid Rock Children’s Ranch,” Bailey said.

Sunrise is traveling and connecting with potential donors and supporters in the greater Clark County region to share Solid Rock’s story and vision.

Solid Rock Children’s Ranch will integrate foster families into a functional, working 130-acre farm that uses agricultural revenue, animal and plant therapies and third-party reimbursements to support the innovative program.

Over time, Sunrise plans to develop a 15-acre area of the farm in two phases.

The first phase of the project will establish the necessary infrastructure — road,

water, septic and electric — as well as the first of two five-bedroom homes.

The second phase is the construction of the second five-bedroom home

on the property.

In total, the project will cost about $750,000, Greene said. So far, Sunrise has raised about $50,000 in current and pending funds — much of which has come from church organizations such as Boone’s Creek Baptist Association, Baptist Bikers of Kentucky and more.

While the project is in its initial stages, Bailey said Sunrise is in it for the long haul. Bailey invites people to donate or ask Sunrise to come to speak at their civic groups, churches, etc. and be a part of the effort to raise money for the ranch.

Any speaker requests or questions related to fundraising for the Solid Rock Children’s Ranch project should be directed to Randy Greene at Sunrise at rgreene@sunrise.org.

Per an agreement with Sunrise, Singleton will live in her home on the farm and

also has use of the buildings around it for her lifetime. As a Sunrise-certified respite care

provider, Singleton will play a vital role in assisting with the day-to-day activities of the

families and children.

“I want to do things with the kids,” Singleton said. “I want to work with the kids and let this be a place for a happy place where they can come and do crafts or let me tutor them with our classes and eat a meal with me or whatever.”

Having been a teacher, she has experience working with children and will serve the new Sunrise community in a caretaker role, providing support and guidance as needed.

“A foster home is a very special environment for children and those who live out God’s

calling to care for ‘the least of these’ by opening their homes and hearts to them,” Sunrise President Dale Suttles said in a press release. “Solid Rock Children’s Ranch will be an incredibly life-changing experience for both the kids and foster parents, who will be surrounded by a strong support system ready to serve with time, talents, compassion, and love.

“We oftentimes see sibling groups broken apart physically and emotionally by separate foster care placements because homes aren’t large enough to house them together. Sunrise is incredibly grateful to Ms. Singleton for this gift of compassion that addresses this particular challenge head on and extends our work further throughout Kentucky to help make hurting kids whole again while keeping family members together.”

Greene said Singleton’s donation reminds him of Sunrise’s humble beginnings when three women donated an old church in Louisville to orphaned children following the Civil War in 1869.

Singleton said she is pleased to be giving her land over to children who need it more than she does.

She has dedicated her life to bettering children and their lives in some way whether it was teaching, volunteering or now, a donating her land and time to children in foster care.

“I don’t have kids, and this is a way that I can ensure that I’ve touched the future,” Singleton said. “…We’re gonna make a difference in the lives of these children.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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