Construction on the first cabin on 7th Mile Farm began Tuesday with a host of workers sawing, hammering and measuring, while a handful more prepared breakfast and lunch. Yet not one of the laborers was getting paid for the hard-day’s work.
The 7th Mile Farm, located on Highway 46, is the future home of an outdoor recreational facility that will serve children in foster care, at-risk youth and other hard-to-serve demographics. Sharing the former Smithfield Golf course property with 7th Mile Farm is Broken Shackle Ranch, a nonprofit, residential boys’ home.
The Statesboro facility has the capability to house six boys in the former golf course’s clubhouse, named The Joseph House to carry on the work of Statesboro’s former Joseph Home for Boys. A Broken Shackle facility in Augusta houses six boys, and the main campus in Davisboro is a 30-bed facility.
7th Mile Farm is being developed by Fostering Bulloch, a support organization for local foster families. Chris Yaughn, Fostering Bulloch founder, has big plans for the facility.
“7th Mile Farm is an opportunity that God has trusted us with to serve children in our community and in other communities,” said Yaughn. “We’re building a first-class facility for our local kids that they can call their own. Built for our children first, because they get seconds on so many things – like siblings, clothes, families, school. But then I expect them to share it with everyone else.”
A collective effort of willing hands to serve showed up Tuesday morning to start on the first cabin. Some donated materials, some time and many volunteered both.
Ken Castleberry, director of sales for the Southeast region for Huber Engineered Woods, was on hand for the day, along with representatives from across the southeast. Huber donated the sheeting products for the cabin’s walls.
Castleberry said that his company often gives back to communities, serving nationally with Habitat for Humanity.
“I wanted something to do just for the southeast team,” he said.
Crew from six states
Eleven men from North and South Carolina, Tennessee,
Alabama, Georgia and Florida came to install the very product that they sell.
“It’s great to get together as a group, but without meetings, not talking about work specifically – just here to give back,” Castleberry said. “My goal is to have something we could do year after year, ongoing, to see the project we’ve done, to see it coming along.”
Castleberry said the Huber volunteers enjoyed dinner with the young men at the Davisboro facility before beginning construction.
“Most of us have kids of our own,” he said. “We talked later about the fact that any of us could be an accident or bad situation away from both parents being removed from a family.”
Brandon Thompson, Huber Regional Sales Manager for Central Florida, is a father of three – 9-year-old and 6-year-old sons and a 2-year-old daughter.
“Hearing the boys’ stories, their trials and struggles in life, but yet maintaining a positive attitude. It was very impressive.”
David Cobb, COO of Broken Shackle, was 5 when his parents opened the doors or Broken Shackle Ranch. Cobb and some of the young men from Davisboro worked alongside other volunteers. The Davisboro campus, a city located halfway between Louisville and Sandersville, is an accredited and certified vocational school and the boys are learning a construction trade.
The school also offers training in welding, automotive maintenance and repair and culinary arts.”Whatever the boys’ goals are, that’s our goals,” said Cobb.
All of the courses are taught on campus, and the boys take part in hands-on opportunities after training, like the 7th Mile Farm cabin.
Lansing Building Products and James Hardie also donated materials to the Bulloch County project.
“Hardiplank,” said Yaughn with a large grin.
Apparently, when Yaughn discussed with a Lansing representative the needs for the cabin, he said, “We have a hardiplank appetite and a vinyl budget.”
“Only God can do the things that have happened here,” Yaughn said. “I have reckless optimism. I need a daily refilling of reckless optimism from the Holy Spirit.
“One piece at a time,” Yaughn said about the coming-together of 7th Mile Farm.
“One piece at a time with who and what God sends us, what skill they’ve been entrusted with and their abilities.”
Volunteers like Nick Propps and Tony Crosby with Statesboro Properties offered their skills, abilities and time for the benefit of 7th Mile Farm.
“People ask about the name, what we grow here,” Yaughn said. “We don’t even have a tractor, but I tell them, ‘We grow hope.’”
Interestingly, Yaughn chose the moniker for his idea, even before he secured the property. “7th Mile, it comes from Jesus’ seven-mile walk to Emmaus.
“He came alongside his disciples but didn’t reveal himself at first. Our kids don’t have a reason to believe us, to trust us. Most adults have baled on them – have let them down.
“It’s the same long walk we have with our guys and eventually we’re able to reveal what our true heart is and they believe us.”
Yaughn choked up when he shared another God-moment.
“And it was only after we’d had the property for a bit that I saw the mile marker sign. The farm is located on mile marker seven. Only God could do that.”
Yaughn has big plans for 7th Mile Farm and is confident God will supply what he needs for those plans.
“The best part – we’re debt free.”
Laughing, he adds, “We’re broke again after the first cabin, but we’re debt-free.”