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Updated 12:17pm - Sep 29, 2014

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Seniors’ help at Bar-O Boys Ranch sought

Recruitment is forever ongoing at the Area 1 Agency on Aging’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, better known as “RSVP.” If you missed our article that appeared April 22 in the Daily Triplicate, RSVP works with retired seniors who want to keep active and remain a vital part of the community by doing volunteer work at one or more of our many RSVP worksite stations. 

It was after reading the April 22 article that I received a telephone call from Kirk Taylor, senior counselor at Bar-O-Boys Ranch. As he explained, “There is a great need for vocational teachers at the Ranch. While state and county funds provide for academic teachers, they do not fill in the gap for vocational instructors.” As Kirk further explained, if an at-risk youth can acquire marketable skills for future employment, that young man can have hope for a brighter future that does not include a return to criminal activity. Kirk offered me a tour of the Bar-O-Boys Ranch facility and asked for help from RSVP in recruiting retired senior volunteers to help provide vocational instruction.

So it was on a sunny afternoon that I found myself winding my way through the canyon, passing Gasquet, toward the Bar-O-Boys Ranch not knowing what to expect when I got there. Upon arrival I was struck by its picturesque setting, tucked beneath some shade trees and located just above the Smith River.  

Kirk led me on a tour of the well-maintained grounds, explaining that the ranch is a juvenile detention facility for 14–18-year-old boys, referred to as “wards,” who have been sentenced to serve time by courts all over California. The barracks can accommodate a maximum of 42. Currently, the Bar-O-Boys Ranch houses 17 wards. Security is high at the ranch, and staff provide constant surveillance and supervision of all activities. 

The wards participate in a very structured program where they learn life skills, receive academic instruction and must earn privileges before being released from the facility. Vocational instructors are sorely needed so that these young wards can learn marketable skills for employment upon release. 

The facility provides perfect classrooms for vocational instruction. There is a full commercial kitchen where wards are taught food preparation, cooking and catering. There is a large, fully equipped ceramics room where they can learn the fine art of ceramics. There are also several shop buildings for woodworking, welding, electrical work and small engine repair. Materials for vocational instruction are provided by Bar-O-Boys Ranch. 

While the Ranch can provide an instructor with materials and tools for the classroom, there can be challenges for the volunteer, who must understand that he or she will be working with juveniles who are a part of the court system. Therefore, an interview and fingerprint background check is required with each interested person to determine if he or she is a good “fit” for the program. 

So ask yourself, are you a retiree with time on your hands and a skill set from a past profession that could help others get a boost up in life? Or perhaps you are a retired peace officer with custody experience but also have experience in electrical, plumbing or other construction trades that you could teach to others? Maybe you have an art background or experience in the culinary arts? 

Especially important are any skills that at-risk youth can translate into employment opportunities. 

Bar-O-Boys Ranch desperately needs vocational instructors in the following areas: 

• Construction trades: Welding, carpentry, plumbing, house painting

• Gardening: Landscaping and tree trimming/maintenance

• Automotive: Small engine repair and internal combustion theory

• Culinary: Kitchen instruction in food preparation 

• Arts: Ceramics

If you are interested in becoming an RSVP volunteer and would like to make a positive difference in the life of a young man who might otherwise be headed down the wrong path, please contact Sharon Jourden at the Del Norte Area 1 Agency on Aging at 464-7876. RSVP can offer limited mileage reimbursement for this program. 

If you are interested in this program or in other volunteer work, please join us at the RSVP Recruitment Fair at the Del Norte Senior Center at 1765 Northcrest Drive today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There you can see pictures of the Bar-O-Boys Ranch facility, have your questions answered and find out about other volunteer opportunities for seniors in Del Norte County.

Sharon Jourden is a volunteer services specialist in Del Norte County for the Area 1 Agency on Aging’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

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