Sixteen miles southeast of Mt. Pleasant, in Weidman, Michigan, sits a small ranch with a big mission.
Hopewell Ranch provides equine therapy and other horse-assisted counseling and educational programs to children with special needs, adults who struggle in traditional counseling settings, and military veterans from all over central Michigan. Co-founder and Executive Director, Jodi Stuber, recently shared her vision for the ranch and how it came to be the major operation it is today.
A former in-home daycare provider, Stuber has always valued nurturing and kindness, but didn’t always see herself as an executive. “In the beginning, we needed help with the application for our non-profit status. A close friend assisted us, in return for a cherry pie and a box of cheese crackers,” she recalls. Since that time, the ranch has seen more success than anyone ever could have imagined.
Stuber now runs the organization, along with a dedicated board of directors and with the support of United Way, The Mount Pleasant Community Foundation, Community Advancement Network, and the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.
The ranch’s original therapeutic riding program, recently titled Unbridled Potential, focuses on helping children with special needs. “We believe children hampered by labels need to be unbridled to meet their maximum potential,” Stuber explained, “We show them love and kindness, and support their needs by pairing them with one adult and one horse, and allowing the time they spend here to be only about them."
But Unbridled Potential was just the beginning for Stuber and the ranch. Hopewell’s programs have also expanded to address other needs in the community. The organization now offers Project Solomon, a free equine program for military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Junior Farmers, a mentoring program for at-risk youth; Nurturing Parent, a program for the prevention of child abuse and neglect; plus a slate of customizable equine-assisted counseling, team-building, and professional development programs.
Stuber says there are no plans to slow down in the foreseeable future either. Funding for an office expansion is in the works. The addition will make room for planning and executing even more programs, plus give Stuber room for on-site fundraising.
For now, they get by with off-site events and support from the community. The ranch provides a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, including a registered student organization at Central Michigan University and a summer volunteer program for middle- and high-school students. “Many, many people are responsible for the success of HopeWell Ranch,” Stuble proudly acknowledged, “Our volunteers are priceless to us and we wouldn’t be where we are without them."
On November 1, 2018, Hopewell Ranch will host “A Journey of Hope” at the Pohlcat Event Center in Mt. Pleasant. The event will include a catered dinner, live auction, and raffle, and will be emceed by Angie Evans from WCFX.