By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
Ten minutes before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Reba’s Ranch House facility on Memorial Day 2010, Michelle Lemming answered a call from Dr. Darius Maggi.
“I’ll see you tomorrow at the grand opening,” he said. “I’ve got it on my calendar.”
Michelle, CEO & President of the Texoma Health Foundation, nearly dropped her phone. “Dr. Maggi, it’s today!”
After weeks of frenzied preparations and moving, the ranch house team had met a significant goal: to open the new facility on Memorial Day. The sentiment harkened back to the long weekends filled with fundraising for the hospital and the original Reba’s Ranch House. Concerts, golf and fishing tournaments, parades—all the events culminated in the original house and now, by extension, the new ranch house.
Everyone gathered under the white tent on Memorial Day 2010, including Reba McEntire and her family, awaiting the grand opening ceremony. But Dr. Maggi, the man who had asked Reba to become involved in the medical endeavors in the area years before, hadn’t arrived.
“It’s tomorrow,” Dr. Maggi insisted with Michelle over the phone. Then he laughed. “I’m pulling in now.”
On that day of sunshine and jovial spirits, the ceremony kicked off with flags and prayer, Reba speaking and thanking all the contributors, and there were hugs and kisses all around.
The party moved up the stone sidewalk beneath the wood beams that stretched overhead, holding up the portico. The beams let guests know they had arrived at the ranch house—their temporary home away from home. The exterior of the house is a symbol to the community, representing thousands of hours and years of fundraising poured into the ranch-style house.
The roof itself was used to design the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) logo.
“We didn’t have a logo,” said Tony Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance and former THF board member. “It clicked with me one day that those beams could be part of the logo.”
Under those beams, Reba McEntire cut the red ribbon to open the home to an average of 800 weary caregivers annually.
Kent Black, a founding member of THF, had the honor of giving Reba her first tour. Past the open, friendly welcome desk, they could veer left where the walls are filled with the history of the house. Photos, posters, newspaper clippings, and a written history tell the story of those years of fundraising that created this comforting place for caregivers.
Across from the wall is the entrance into the library, a quiet sanctuary. Filled with touches from the original ranch house, it’s a place where difficult conversations and prayer happen as staff and volunteers care for caregivers going through some of the greatest trials of their lives.
The kitchen opens as a bright space where guests can take meals and bond with others going through similar situations. The wood hutch represents this bonding. It was built and donated by a former guest who had received the comfort the ranch house offered. The kitchen was designed around accommodating the hutch.
From the bedrooms with handmade quilts to the relaxing outdoor areas, Reba was able to see how carefully planned every square foot of the ranch house was to give caregivers a refuge in the storm of their lives.
On that Memorial Day 2010, everyone knew their years of tireless work was worth every minute.
“The highlight was to see the facility finished and know the history of how many people worked on it, and the whole Reba history in Denison,” Tony said. “To understand the history and then see the present and know what’s going to happen in the future because you’ve got the staff and the funds to make significant progress in the health of our region, that’s what I thought about.”