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Questions on planned youth-at-risk ministry

Since 2007, Gary Stauffer has been working on creating a youth-at-risk ministry center and program on his property, the Soaring Eagles Ranch, located off Judge Orr Road, 3 miles east of Ellicott Highway. Residents on the surrounding properties have voiced concern about his latest attempts to bring a day program and a temporary housing facility to the property for at-risk youth. Neighbor Neva Roa said she received a call from another neighbor early one morning because they had received a letter from Stauffer about his new plans for the ministry. ìA question I have is where these kids are going to come from and what kind of control is going to be put on them,î Roa said. ìThere was a concern that we were going to get a police problem out here.îStauffer said his facility will not be a detention center or any sort of off-shoot from the judicial system, so the kids wonít be a danger to the surrounding property owners. ìThere wonít be a detention center; no barbed wire; no kids from the judicial system that have to be here in lieu of prison,î Stauffer said. ìIt will be for kids who are having problems in school and got kicked out. If they need extra help or theyíre living in a house with problems, they can come out and work on getting some skills.îStauffer said he plans to have a day program with a community center where kids can take classes on life skills such as changing oil in a vehicle. ìWe can teach them something to give them confidence,î he said. Additionally, with the day program kids could spend time with Stauffer’s horses, learning to groom and ride them. ìThe equestrian stuff was one of the first things we started working on,î he said. ìThey groom the horses, walk the horses and after time, they ride them. Equestrian places usually just offer those services, not life skills. Kids could come here at night after school, on the weekends, whenever; and they would learn not just horses but they could do a bunch of other things, too.îAside from the day program, Stauffer said he plans to have a house where some of those at-risk kids can stay if their home isnít a safe place. ìIt wouldnít really be foster care but it would be onsite living, and they could be here for a period of time,î he said. Roa said her concern stems from Staufferís apparent lack of direction. ìHeís not spelling out exactly what he wants to do,î she said. ìHe hasnít given anybody a direct plan from point A to point B.îHer concerns were echoed by many of her neighbors when they had a meeting Aug. 24 to discuss the letter they received from Stauffer outlining his plans. ìHe (Stauffer) was invited but he didnít show up,î she said. ìWe had 16 people representing 10 different homes in the area at the meeting.î The group wanted to ask Stauffer in person about his plans. ìA major concern is whether heís even capable of providing the counseling services to these kids,î Roa said. ìWe would have all the kids that come out here go through an evidence-based testing, which is a psychological term to see where the kids are, mentally,î Stauffer said. ìWeíre not going to have anyone on staff do that but contract it out. Sometimes, the kids will already have that done. Then, there will be follow-up testing that goes with it to be able to tell if they are making any progress for what theyíre going through.îCurrently, Staufferís plans for the ministry have not been approved by El Paso County. ìWe have a barn and things like that, but we need approval to get the other facilities built,î he said. ìWe have a lot of things weíre working on. We pretty much know where things are going to go; we just need the stamp of approval from the county.î

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