By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

Shelley and Rita at Ruiz Foods.

There are three ladies the team at Reba’s Ranch House can’t do without.

Meet Rita, Linda, and Shelley—three volunteers and cancer survivors who give guests at the ranch house a hand to hold. And they put their hands to work on whatever needs doing.

Four years ago, Rita Williams and Linda Vissering, both retired, did volunteer work together. One day, they targeted the ranch house.

“We came in and introduced ourselves,” Rita recalls. “We said we’re breast cancer survivors and asked what we could do. That’s how we inched our way in. Then they found out they couldn’t live without us. They were stuck with us.” 

A few years later another friend, Shelley Martin, joined as a volunteer at the ranch house.

“The minute I walked in the door for my interview with Marilyn [Bice], it felt like such a relaxing atmosphere,” Shelley says. “This is going to sound funny, but even the smell was spiritual! I knew this was where God wanted me to be. If I don’t do anything else but this, my life is complete.” 

The three women have become indispensable at the ranch house. Sometimes they find themselves picking up a check from a fundraiser, or helping with a golf tournament, or redoing wreaths to decorate the ranch house for Christmas. 

Linda manages the food ministry to make sure there are hearty meals available for worried caregivers 7 days a week. 

“There’s something good for the soul here all the time,” Linda says.

Often, whenever one of these ladies turns a corner in the ranch house, there is someone who needs prayer or a touch of encouragement. This might be in the kitchen where Shelley found a guest crying, or at the front desk where Rita directed a family and their pastor to the library.

“It was quiet and we shut the door so they could carry on with what they needed to do,” Rita says. “It made me feel good that I don’t know these people, but I was able to help them when they needed help the most.”

When beloved Susan Hooper was no longer able to run the Room for Hope in the ranch house, Rita began taking the calls from patients asking for a wig, or assisting them in checking our inventory to find a personal need. As cancer survivors, Rita, Linda, and Shelley pass on their experience to the women and men who come into the room.

And prayer. Always lots of prayer, whether in words, silence, or tears.

“It’s when the soul does the praying, when you can’t say a word,” Linda says.

“We literally had to fight for our lives,” Shelley says. “But it gives us the knowledge now to talk to people. We can calm people down in the moment because we’ve been there.”

“We all just learn to live each day, and do the things we do, like at Reba’s Ranch House,” Linda added. “I think while you’re doing good things for other people, you don’t think about the things you have wrong with yourself.”

These ladies walked into the ranch house, introduced themselves, and now the ranch house really can’t live without them.


If you have a heart for others, please consider volunteering at Reba’s Ranch House. There are so many ways to serve! Find out how you can volunteer at the ranch house here.

Rita and Linda with the Sherman High School High Steppers mascot.