TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Thu, April 09

Rainbow Acres continues to provide loving home <br><i>Ranchers and staff celebrate 30 years</i>

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Weaving is among the many learning opportunities at Rainbow Acres. Cathy Axel (seated) is working here with instructor Mary Pendleton (standing).

The Rev. Ralph Showers will be the keynote speaker Friday evening during the banquet (check to see if tickets are still available). He, along with wife, Marilyn, and the Rev. Larry and Joy Goehner, opened the facility in 1974. Saturday afternoon during the Open House, enjoy a special musical performance by celebrity Pat Boone, along with a Rancher's arts-and-crafts fair and choir presentation, and an $8 boxed lunch. The Open House starts about 10 a.m., and the program featuring Boone and others is at 1 p.m.

Today's campus is a far cry from the early years, although the focus has always been the same, which President and CEO Gary Wagner describes best as an environment of "unconditional Christian love, a secure home, and a safe community."

An ordained minister, Wagner came to Rainbow in 1996 and is pleased that they can now say they are debt free, and that through the Building Homes with Heart Capital Campaign, they have built several beautiful new permanent homes where 80 ranchers now reside. The burning of the 30-year mortgage will be part of Saturday's celebration.

"We have completed the most successful campaign in history with $4 million in contributions that has enabled us to rebuild infrastructure and seven new homes (debt free) for the Ranchers. We've also grown the program based on Ralph Shower's philosophy of a whole-life concept. We developed a life-long learning program, vocational rehabilitation, and the chaplaincy," Wagner said. "We want to continue to expand the ranch by construction of five more homes and the construction of a new community center on the ranch which will serve as a multi-purpose hall/meeting room. We also want to develop an athletic field to be used by the Ranchers as well as other youth organizations.

Affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, Rainbow Acres has enjoyed the support of ABC, as well as churches of every denomination, and many individuals, corporations and service groups.

Rev. Showers recalled the struggling times when the campus was just barren land and a few mobile homes purchased through a Rimrock distributor. Only a couple of those early homes remain today and are used by volunteers. Showers explained they scraped together money from cashed-in life insurance policies and donations from service clubs, churches, family members and friends to get started.

"I was pastor in Buena Park in California when we decided we wanted to build Rainbow Acres," he said. "We determined from the very beginning that we were not going to take government money."

He said their pay was only about $100 a month back then, and the wives did anything and everything necessary to get the job done. Eventually they would expand to add a farm, a cattle company, and an entertainment park. Today, everything is back to one campus, consolidated onto 39 acres.

Before Rainbow Acres could officially open its doors, though, tragedy struck.

"On Oct. 27 [1973], I was moving the barn there and backed into 7,200 volts of electricity and lost my arms. I went into the hospital for four months," Showers said.

In spite of his physical setback, the facility opened in June 1974 with four Ranchers.

Ron Yeatman, the son of a pastor in Phoenix, was actually the very first resident. Today, Yeatman, 52, lives in one of the new homes. His joyous countenance and smiling face tells it all.

He, like other residents, enjoys a happy and full life through days filled with faith, chores, exercise, learning opportunities, crafts and a computer lab. Recently three educators were added to the lineup.

"Kay Walker, John Willy, and Arliss Morse, who are life-long professional educators in the Verde Valley, are new this year," Wagner explained.

A smiling Yeatman recalls taking care of horses and, many years ago, when Ralph Showers was an honored guest on Ralph Edward's "This is Your Life." Apparently Showers had grown in notoriety through newspaper articles and was showcased on the popular TV show. Yeatman said that he and a baby pet goat, "Sweetheart" were flown to California to join Showers as special guests. Yeatman talks happily about many special trips they have taken throughout the years.

Asked what the future holds, Wagner said that they are launching a 30th anniversary fund for the construction of yet another new home.

"This is urgent because we have people waiting to bring their loved ones to Rainbow and right now every bed is full," he said.

To learn more about Rainbow Acres' work with the developmentally disabled, go to Web site: www.rainbowacres.com or to contribute to the new anniversary fund, call Wagner at 567-5231.

PHOTO: Ron Yeatman with Stepping Stones (man, glasses, stepping stones on rack)

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Ron Yeatman is the very first resident at Rainbow Acres who continues to enjoy a happy and full life at the facility, seen here with "Stepping Stones."

PHOTO: Ralph/Marilyn Showers (couple sitting; she with white hair)

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

Ralph and Marilyn Showers are original founders, spotted during a 2003 "Building Homes with Heart Capital Campaign" dedication program.

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