Frequenly Asked Questions

What is Special K Ranch?

Special K Ranch is a 50l C (3) non-profit corporation governed by a 15 member Board of Directors. Although unaffiliated, the program has a strong Christian emphasis in philosophy and practice. The program offers a living and learning experience in a rural agricultural setting for people who have developmental disabilities.

When was Special K Ranch Started?

After many meetings, planning, and property search, Larry Goehner was hired to be the first Director in August 1986. In January 1987, the first four residents moved to the ranch.

Where is Special K Ranch?

Special K Ranch is located on 230 acres, 10 miles West of Park City and 8 miles East of Columbus, Montana. The property is bordered on the north by Interstate 90 and on the south by the Yellowstone River. It is accessible by taking the frontage road from either Park City or Columbus.

Who does Special K Ranch Serve?

The ranch serves both men and women, ages 18 and older, who have developmental disabilities. The program is designed to serve people who may need to live within a supportive community all of their lives. It is not designed to deal with those individuals exhibiting extreme behavior, emotional disturbances, or criminal delinquency. Residents to be admitted must have the ability to manage primary self-help skills and to communicate basic needs. Special K Ranch serves 31 people in seven separate residences.

What is the basic program?

Special K Ranch is a place where people who have developmental disabilities live, learn, and work with loving and caring advisers who are committed to sharing their lives in this very special way. Residents are learning independent living and vocational skills through participation in daily personal, household, and ranch responsibilities. The individuals in each home are responsible for the activities and maintenance of their own home.

Vocationally, everyone is working on the ranch raising livestock, growing bedding plants and hot house tomatoes in the 60,000 square feet of greenhouse, and caring for indigenous trees, shrubs and plants.

How is Special K Ranch funded?

There is a monthly fee charged to each resident for board, room, and life services, i.e.; 24 hour supervision, training, counseling, transportation, and general assistance. The residents’ Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is applied toward the fee.

Contributions are received from community service clubs, churches, individuals, and private and corporate foundations. It is the goal of the ranch to become as self-sufficient as possible through income from ranch production, i.e.; livestock, greenhouse and nursery, and garden produce sales.

Special K Ranch operates independently of government funding.

Who are the Special K Ranch staff members?

The staff consists of people who are committed to the concept of Christian community living with people who have developmental disabilities. There is a married couple or single person living in, and managing, each home. Vocational advisers supervise the daily work activities.

A Program Director manages the staff and daily operations. The Executive Director and Development Director work with the board and are responsible for financial development.

How did Special K Ranch acquire the property?

In 1986 Special K Ranch purchased the 160 acres, with lifetime water rights, for $290,000. The Farm Service Agency granted the assumption of $170,000 loan and The Billings Clearing House, a consortium of four Billings banks made up of Norwest, First Interstate, First Bank of Billings, and First Citizens Bank, loaned $85,000. The balance of $35,000 was paid in cash from funds raised through donations and pledges.

How is Kiwanis involved?

The Billings Area Kiwanis Clubs first became involved when approached by a group of men who were interested in modeling a program after Rainbow Acres in Camp Verde, Arizona.

A Steering Committee was formed in the summer of 1984 consisting of 2 to 4 members from each of the six Billings Area Kiwanis Clubs. This committee was responsible for the original development of Special K Ranch. In 1986 following incorporation, a Board of Directors was elected. Members are elected from the general public and serve a three (3) year term. Special K Ranch continues to solicit support from the Kiwanis Clubs in the Montana District.

Who are your home advisers? Where do you get them?

Our mission statement says that Special K Ranch "provides family oriented Christian Homes…" For this to happen staff are needed to live in each house with the four residents and make it a home. We have had occasion to have a single person as a home adviser, but mostly there are married couples who fill this position. A number of our home advisers also have children of their own. Although experience, training, and ability are important in meeting the requirements for this position, what is key is that a person have a heart for service, a willingness to live in community with the residents and other staff, and to serve in the name of Christ.

When there is an opening for home advisers we advertise and we pray. Most of our staff have come to the ranch through a variety of interesting circumstances and from near and far. We believe that this is the result of prayer.

From time to time we have need of home advisers as people move on to other things. If you are interested in learning more about serving in this position contact our Program Director. He would be glad to meet with you and share in more detail about this important role.

Do the people living at Special K Ranch get paid for the work they do?

Yes.

The people living at Special K Ranch because of their disabilities are not able to be productive at most working tasks to the extent that they could receive a full wage. Therefore the ranch has applied for and received a certificate from wage and labor that allows for a wage less then minimum wage to be paid.

Each rancher is tested at various tasks and is paid a percentage of minimum wage based on the going rate for that job. They are tested twice a year and adjustments are made for changes in production levels.

In addition to their earned income each resident receives an automatic allowance from their SSI for personal needs.

What does a ranch program like yours do when the residents get too old to do any work on the ranch and even later, develop physical problems that require more care than the ranch is capable of giving?

Our work program has always been based on people working at their own level of ability not on a labor or production standard.

A little work activity, fresh air, and social interaction is healthy for everyone no matter how old they are. The ranch offers this in an atmosphere of friendship and loving care.

If for health reasons one of our residents needs assistance beyond our service abilities we would help them find an appropriate placement. Our plan has been to use the convalescent center in Columbus. Living in Columbus would keep the individual close to the ranch so we could visit and they could continue to be involved as much as possible in our activities and with their friends.

How are the residents selected to live at Special K Ranch?

The program at Special K Ranch is designed to be a long term or permanent living arrangement for people who have developmental disabilities. It is not often that there is a vacancy. However, on occasion a resident may move.

The process for selecting a candidate to fill a vacancy begins with the family of the prospective resident requesting and filling out an application packet. Along with the application, a psychological evaluation and any other activity and development reports are collected and reviewed.

A visit to the ranch for a tour and an interview with the screening committee is then scheduled. If the prospective resident, following this interview, would like to live at Special K Ranch and the report from the Screening Committee is favorable, a sixty (60) day trial and evaluation visit is set up.

After the sixty-day trial visit the Screening Committee make a determination based on the prospects desire to live at the ranch and the programs ability to meet the specific needs of the individual.

When the trial period is completed successfully there is a welcoming party. New members to the ranch are encouraged to bring their own bedroom furniture and decorate their room.

Do residents graduate and go on to live on their own?

The program at Special K Ranch is set up to be a "whole life" living and working opportunity for people who have developmental disabilities. It is not a school or training center where people go through a curriculum and then move on to something else. The residents are challenged daily to grow to new levels of self-care, living skills, work skills, and social skills. If they choose to make the ranch their home they are welcome to live and work here until they choose to leave or circumstances beyond our control dictate differently.

Our experience has shown that many of the people in this population who may have the living and work skills to live on their own and have a part time job (which is usually the only work they can get) prefer the community of the ranch. Sometimes other people’s dreams and expectations are placed on people who have developmental disabilities i.e. a successful and meaningful life is living on your own and having a job. For people who have mental challenges, this often leads to lonely, unfulfilled lives in an environment where their only friends are people who would mislead them and take advantage of their naivete and generosity.

Loving and caring relationships is what we all long for, and this is at the heart of Special K Ranch.

Contact Us

Please contact the ranch for details and additional information.