Michael Smith at Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches is an Alabama Bright Light for children in need

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They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. At Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, this village is thriving under the leadership of CEO Michael Smith.

“Our mission at Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches is to provide family-style Christian homes for needy school-aged children in Alabama,” Smith said. “We provide an atmosphere where they can grow spiritually and physically into productive, responsible and happy adults.”

Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches opened in the early 1960s when members of the Alabama Sheriffs Association began providing homes for troubled children. The result is a thriving program that has fed over 5,000 children in the years since.

“I like these young people. I just had a daughter who went to college at Jacksonville State, and she called me the other day. She had made the band and wanted me to come to a baseball game and sit in the family section. You can’t explain it any better than that,” Smith said.

Michael Smith of the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches is an Alabama Bright Light from the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Leaders of the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches encourage young people to continue their education. After breeders graduate from high school, they have the option of continuing their education at a vocational school or university.

“Children can grow and prosper together on our ranches. These young people stay with us throughout school. We do things like teach them how to drive and other life skills and then send them off to college, if that’s the case,” Smith said.

The Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches are located in Baldwin County, Colbert County, St. Clair County, and Tallapoosa County.

To accomplish all of their programs, Smith depends on funding from entities such as the Alabama Power Foundation. “We have had the support of the Alabama Power Foundation for years and are very grateful. Many of our programs would not have been possible without the Alabama Power Foundation,” he said.

Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches are true working ranches that require children to tend livestock and perform other agricultural tasks. Daily chores are combined with family and other religious activities, including youth groups, sports and clubs.

Smith appreciates the ultimate purpose of ranches. “Knowing that we’re giving these young people a chance to break the cycle and do something with their lives — that’s the most fulfilling feeling,” Smith said.

The village of Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches is booming.

For more information, visit www.alabamasherrifsyouthranches.org.

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