By Kelly Lynch
“We hope and we pray and we work,” Kenneth Weaver said as he shuts the door behind him at The Farm Place.
It’s a fitting mantra for a place and a cause that has been embraced so enthusiastically by the community and the many who have donated money, man hours, materials or all of the above.
The vision of Margaret Malone, an original founder of Ark Animal Rescue and Adoption, The Farm Place now belongs to the community as a point of pride and care for the youngest among them.
The recently finished eight-bedroom home located off of State Road 9 north of LaGrange will be a safe haven for children in need of immediate placement in foster care because of abuse or neglect.
But what sets it apart is that the property, spanning 10 acres, will also house a barn and lodge where those same children can receive the companionship they need during such a transition in their lives with the variety of animals that will live onsite.
Many times when these children are moved out of their homes for their safety, they’re leaving behind their toys, clothes and even family pets. The Farm Place hopes to provide a sense of safety and warmth.
“Sometimes, especially if someone is abused or severely neglected, they tend to emotionally shut off or shut down and get afraid of people,” explained Weaver, a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “Sometimes a goat ‘baaa’-ing, a sheep snuggling or a rabbit to hold is a way around that barrier and a way to open them up emotionally and a way for them to cuddle a little bit. We believe that helps healing.”
Two-fold, the lodge and barn will be on a separate lot adjacent to the house, so they can be used for other means, such as supervised visitation sessions, while allowing the house to keep the privacy of its residents.
Weaver said The Farm Place received support almost immediately when the idea spurred a fundraising campaign in 2017. By 2018, they held a groundbreaking, and the first phase of the project — the house being completed — was opened to a public walkthrough in November 2019.
It was the aim of the original board members to make The Farm Place a community project as much as they could, Weaver said, and now he has seen that come to fruition.
“I think it’s a point of pride for the community, and I wouldn’t know that except that I help manage the Facebook page,” board member Keith James said. “When we send out posts, the reaction from the community, there’s a lot more sharing going on. That surprised me. They want other people to know what’s going on in LaGrange.”
LaGrange County REMC was fortunate enough to help in The Farm Place’s endeavor when employees packed up the trucks and sided a portion of the home during our annual Community Day in 2018. Our members also contributed through Operation Round Up, which granted The Farm Place $4,000 that same year during its fundraising campaign.
But the work isn’t done quite yet.
A foster family needs to be chosen to run the house, construction on the barn is slated to begin later this year and fundraising will continue until all three buildings are complete.
Weaver and James ask anyone interested in helping, whether monetarily or with their time, to visit their website, farmplace.org, to search for opportunities. The need for help won’t stop once construction is complete, Weaver said.
Everyone involved will continue to hope, pray and work until the children of LaGrange, Noble, Steuben and DeKalb counties receive the help they need to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
“You see generations in the jail at the same time with the same trouble. There’s mom, daughter and grandpa or three generations are in the jail at the same time for the same problem,” James said. “That’s part of why we’re doing this. We’re hoping to have an impact to change that cycle, break it.”
KELLY LYNCH is communications specialist for LaGrange County and Noble REMCs.