By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
On land gifted by Tom and Peggy Johnson, shovels cut into the rich Texas soil for the groundbreaking of a new Reba’s Ranch House facility.
Reba McEntire turned a gold spadeful of dirt, and expressed her appreciation of the moment to the gathering of staff, community leaders, and volunteers. “There are not many times that you come to a place that starts with a prayer and the flag,” Reba said.
But long before the first spade broke ground, a construction committee was formed to design every detail of the new facility.
Kent Black, who was a founding member of the Texoma Health Foundation (THF), headed the committee, along with Phil Roether, also a founding member of THF. Kent’s last position before retirement was as CEO of United Space Alliance and Phil was VP of Operations at Raytheon. Both men are engineers and had experience building their own homes.
Phil and Kent began listing the nitty-gritty considerations of safety and costs while still keeping in mind the heart of the ranch house.
“We wanted to have a place that followed the legacy of the previous ranch house and provide the same level of care and more,” Phil said. “It’s a home away from home for people in distress.”
Kent and Phil’s task was to build both a hotel-like facility and a home. They filled out spreadsheet after spreadsheet day and night, and hammered out ideas with the committee.
“Throughout the process, there was always a healthy testing of things we wanted to do,” Phil said. “When people would question something, typically a better product came out. It got us to think outside the box.”
A special seat at the board table was designated for a representative from Reba’s team who made each meeting and gave input on her desires for the new facility. Reba also made sure the construction committee had what they needed for the project.
“Reba was very involved in helping if we ran into challenges,” Phil said. “If she was able to help in any way, she found a way to do it.”
Several entities pitched in to make the facility come together. HKS, an international design firm, donated their services for the ranch house at no cost, and Brasfield and Gorrie, a general contractor overseeing the construction of a new local hospital, managed the ranch house project at a significantly reduced fee. Significant cash and in-kind donations poured in, as did volunteers. Ranch hands from Kent’s 1,300 acre ranch helped move the 10ft by 8ft wooden quilt that hung at the entrance of the original Reba’s Ranch House, to its new home. They came back again to assemble beds in the finished rooms.
All the while, Kent, joined at times by Phil, was at the building site every day, making sure each element—from the common areas to the exterior stone—went into its correct place to serve guests and achieve the ranch house look.
When the construction phase ended, Kent and Phil could step back for a long look at the fruits of their year and a half of labor.
“Most rewarding was seeing it materialize and knowing how many people it was going to help,” Kent said. “It felt like we really spent our money well.”
“I was able to stand outside and face the entrance where the portico is to see the pattern of the beams,” Phil said. “It was a design element that was incorporated to match the same roof design of the original house – a nod to our legacy. The same design is used in the Texoma Health Foundation logo today. The talents we had on the foundation board were so complementary to one another, and that made it much easier. You couldn’t help but have pride for having been a part of it.”
You can continue building on the legacy of Reba’s Ranch House in our 30th year when you become a donor here.