Christian Children's Home of Oho

Up a scenic, winding, narrow road on the outskirts of Wooster rests a rural sanctuary that looks to be the perfect location to mend the wounds of life.

That is precisely what it is.

Kids and teens who have been through substantial trauma call this place home during a roughly nine-month program that helps them navigate and heal before they are placed into foster care.

David Walker, Christian Children’s Home of Ohio donor relations manager, tells the story of how the property began after a group of Christian ministers in the area became aware of a group of orphaned boys living off the streets in 1969.

Initially licensed as a foster/group home serving three to five children at one time, it now has five cottages on its campus that are home to as many as 46 at-risk kids at once. The organization also has a robust outpatient program called Encompass Christian Counseling for those not living on site. Walker said the children have been through some of the “worst forms of abuse and neglect” and CCHO gives them a “safe environment to meet their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.”

2023 Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways Grant
Children at Christian Children’s Home of Ohio learned about agriculture at a summer camp, thanks to a grant from Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.

To help with the healing, summer programs and activities are hosted for the children every year. When Walker was searching for the next opportunity for the camp, he found the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation’s Youth Pathways grant opportunity online. Surrounded by farms and already having a successful equine therapy program, he applied for the grant.

Despite coming from rural Ohio counties surrounding Wayne County, the children at CCHO have had little to no exposure to agriculture. They come from broken homes and uneven educational experiences. Thinking about what jobs they may be interested in for their future often has not been a priority in their childhood.

Those applying for Youth Pathways grants are encouraged to go through a pitch session before final determinations on recipients are decided. Walker said CCHO was encouraged to “think big and take the program to the next level” at its pitch session.

The powers-that-be did just that, working with Wayne County Farm Bureau to help secure farm visits and working with Ohio State University’s ATI Wooster Campus and nearby Certified Angus Beef to help expand the farm camp program beyond the summer with a certificate at the completion of the camp and a winter workshop opportunity.

Awarded earlier this year by the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, the Youth Pathways grant gave CCHO the ability to accomplish both with a population of children Farm Bureau would otherwise not have a chance to reach, according to Kelly Burns, executive director of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.

Summer camp
Students toured a bison farm.

During the summer farm program, youths in grades 1-12 are divided into three groups: elementary, junior high and senior high students. They are assigned age-appropriate materials to read the week before class, then discuss what they’ve learned the following week and participate in various classroom activities before heading out to a farm. It has been a rewarding experience for everyone.

Working directly with the kids during this agriculture encounter are camp director Forrest Lang and intern Culver Sidle, who both come from farming families themselves.

“I got interested in this summer farm program in partnership with the Farm Bureau, and also as a way to diversify my teaching experience and be able to educate kids who would not otherwise have an experience with agriculture about different topics in agriculture,” said Lang, who is an instructor at ATI. “The kids have been extremely receptive and engaged with the content of the curriculum and the tours especially.”

Sidle graduated from high school this past spring and intends to continue his education at ATI and become an ag teacher.

“(Through this experience) I’ve been able to grow and see what I need to learn still in college, but I’ve had a great time teaching other kids about what my daily life is and what it’s like,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but it means everything in the world to them to see something different. They have hints or little things that they’ve seen and what they’ve seen online, but it’s nothing like coming out to a farm and learning what goes into the daily experiences of farming and the feeding and the chores. It’s really cool for them to have the opportunity to come out and look at these farms.”

2023 Youth Pathways grant deadlines

The Youth Pathways Grant for Careers in Agriculture is the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation’s signature grant program designed to help young people discover their purpose and passion in agricultural careers through programming that introduces them to the educational and
employment possibilities related to farming and other ag-related careers.

The foundation intends to award grants to organizations that exhibit innovative program design, utilize partnerships between community organizations and demonstrate program sustainability statewide. As a partner, the foundation seeks to support efforts that successfully prepare students for post-secondary training or direct placement in ag-related industries.

Preference is given to organizations that are in need of funds to scale innovation for long-term programming initiatives and success.

  • There are two tiers of grant awards:
    Youth Pathways Growth Grant (up to $25,000) – At this level, preference is given to organizations that are amplifying their work and working to build out their program.
  • Youth Pathways Sustainability Grant (up to $75,000) – At this level, proposals must be focused on growing an already existing, successful program with emphasis on their sustainability plan.
2023 Award Information and Important Dates

Sept. 1 – Sept. 30: Pre-submission Pitch Session Registration
Oct. 6: Pitch Session from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (in-person; must be available for entire duration of meeting)
Oct. 6 – Oct. 31: Final Proposal Submission
December 2023: Anticipated Award Date

Learn more

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

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Ernie Welch

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Matt Aultman

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Jaclyn De Candio

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