30th anniversary

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  1. Meet Mitch and Fancy, Ranch House Residents Caring for Caregivers

    Ginger Nye (THF board member), Fancy, and Mitch

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer 


    When a guest returned from the hospital one morning after seeing her ill husband, Mitch Gray noticed how distressed she was. He was working the front desk and asked if there was anything he could do for her.

    She replied, “Would you get that dog and meet me in the kitchen?”

    “That dog” is Fancy, the blue heeler resident at Reba‘s Ranch House. Fancy was napping in Mitch’s room at the time. The woman lived on a ranch and had bonded with the dog the evening before when Mitch and Fancy met her during their nightly rounds.

    Mitch brought Fancy to the kitchen where they sat with the guest. She told Mitch about her hard news while stroking Fancy’s head. 

    When Mitch went to work full-time at the ranch house as night manager, the foundation had been having conversations about the possibility of a “house dog” that could bring some comfort and love to guests during trying times.

    The perfect fit came when former ranch house volunteer Cameron Bates contacted Mitch. Moving into new realms with his professional career, Cameron needed to re-home his beloved blue heeler, named after a hit song by Reba–Cameron‘s favorite singer. 

    Fancy went to live with Mitch in her “retirement home,” going from a country dog to the city. But Fancy is still a working dog with important jobs to do.

    “She opens the house up every morning with me, and closes it up every evening,” Mitch says. “She knows every door in the building.”

    In addition to comforting people in their time of grief and stress, Fancy accompanies Mitch constantly in the 27,000-square-foot house and two acres of property. Mitch mans the front desk Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and handles deliveries, errands, pickups, manages building inspectors, and changes lightbulbs.

    Always, Fancy is by his side. They keep a respectful distance from guests until they are invited over, knowing that not everyone loves dogs. They are also mindful of those guests with allergies. Just about everyone who meets Fancy loves her.

    “We’ll water the flowers every morning, feed the birds, open the doors for the trash pick up,” Mitch says. “At night, we walk around the inside and outside of the building.  Everything I do on this property, she’s right behind me.”

    Coming from the stressful corporate world, Mitch was looking for a non-traditional, non-8-to-5 job. Several years ago, Mitch started the Room for Hope Golf Tournament, an annual fundraising endeavor. After part-time work at the ranch house, he accepted the full-time position in September 2022. 

    “As long as I do my job in taking care of the building and taking care of the ladies who work here, I don’t have someone setting my schedule,” Mitch says. “That’s worth money to me.”

    Knowing that Mitch and Fancy are here for families every night at the ranch house gives guests a settled and safe feeling, not to mention the comfort they bring. The pair serve as caregivers of caregivers.

  2. Reba’s Ranch House Helps FLITE Students Become Community Members

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer 


    When guests leave Reba’s Ranch House for the hospital to see their loved one, they sometimes encounter a unique group of young adults who are there on a mission: to help keep the ranch house running smoothly.

    This group of young people that bring smiles and comfort to the guests at the ranch house are with the Grayson Co-Op FLITE Team. The three-year program, under the Grayson County Co-op Special Education service, allows students to participate in programs throughout the school year. 

     Directed by Angele Johnson, FLITE stands for “Foundations of Learning Independence through Transitional Experiences.” One program it utilizes is volunteering nine hours each week at the ranch house.

    “Whatever Ms. Jeri tells us to do, we do,” Angele says.

    Sometimes the group is still there at lunchtime when guests gather in the dining room. Angele might be doing a lesson with the students, talking with them about career choices or how to keep a schedule. 

    “The guests at the house sit there and are amazed that we are not only educating them but we’re also hands-on tactile teaching them the things at Reba’s,” Angele says. “So it’s a two-fold place for us because if we’re not busy with the bed making and the activities at Reba’s, we’re doing functional academics. They need these steps to be able to move forward.”

    The students’ opportunities were expanded two years ago when Texas Workforce Commission, which sponsors the program, incorporated paid work opportunities.

    Once they complete their first year of programming, which includes many volunteer hours at Reba’s Ranch House, the students are eligible to move into paid work experiences. This lets the students come to school and be paid.

    “All 6 of my students have employment on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Angele says. “TWS hires a job coach and each site has a coach, so the students are learning how to take instruction from someone other than me. It makes it a lot of fun to come to school, and also to be utilized.”

    Their journey always includes volunteer work at Reba’s Ranch House. That work brings them into the community and makes them part of it.

    “Reba has us there as a commitment to her community,” Angele says. “I’m blessed to have all of these resources, and I’m so excited that after ten years of doing this program, it is absolutely coming together.

    “It’s because of places like Reba’s and Texas Workforce that my students learn functional life skills, learn how to be a community member, and have the opportunities that come to them,” Angele says. “Their experiences are helping them gain access to the community because of the things they are doing whether it be at their job or Reba’s.

    “When there is an exchange between the students and the guests at Reba’s, it always puts a smile on their faces.”

  3. Welcoming Guests Home at the Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    When guests arrive at Reba’s Ranch House, weary and worn, there is someone at the front door to welcome them in. One of those who welcomes guests is our new staff member, Linda Morgan. She is always ready to show guests around the ranch house and make them feel at home.

    The kitchen, the library, the laundry facilities—all are open to guests, though it’s the final stop on Linda’s tour that solidifies the feeling of home. When Linda opens the door to the guest’s room, they are greeted with a homey, handmade quilt just as if they are at Grandma’s house. 

    “One guest told me it’s like I’m opening my house to them,” Linda says. “And that’s exactly what it is. This is basically Reba’s house, and donors help us open it to the guests who need it. The guests are always very grateful and thankful, and we’re glad we can help in some small way.”

    Recently retired, Linda was looking for supplemental income. She went to work as a temporary employee at the ranch house, but it turned out not-so-temporary. The staff, the mission of the house, and how she can serve guests led Linda to accept a permanent position at the ranch house. 

    A couple of decades in clerical work serves Linda well where she registers guests at the front desk. But she always has time to pause and pray with guests going through their hard time with a loved one in the hospital. 

    “It’s never too busy that I can’t sit with them for ten minutes in the kitchen, have a cup of coffee, and just let them talk,” Linda says. “It’s more of a home than a house. It’s warm and caring.”

    Comforting others in their time of grief is a difficult task. It tears a little at Linda’s heart, but her understanding and tenderness helps people through the time. In turn, they are a blessing to Linda in the work she does alongside other staff members. 

    “All the people who work here are a blessing,” Linda says. “They are what makes it so warm.”

    We’re grateful to have Linda as a caregiver of caregivers here at Reba’s Ranch House. She helps to create a soothing, home-like atmosphere for guests.


    You, too, can take part in caring for people whose loved ones are in the hospital. We invite you to donate goods, your time, or a monetary gift here.

  4. Everything that Needs Doing — A Trio of Indispensable Volunteers 

    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.

  5. “Absolutely Magical” — 30th Anniversary Reunion Week at Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    That Christmastime-as-a-kid feeling came over Mike McKinley during the 30th anniversary reunion for the former golf tournament committee. For nearly two decades, the tournament raised funds for what became Reba’s Ranch House. 

    At the reunion, Mike’s friends were several years older than when they started the tournaments, but it didn’t take long for them to feel like kids at Christmas again.

    Mike (far left) with his beautiful wife speaking to Randy and Robert.

    “[Those years] gave you that excitement you only get a few times in your life,” Mike said. “It was genuine.”

    Thirty years after it all began, the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) and Reba’s Ranch House hosted three major reunions in September 2022 to bring together just over 100 individuals who served on the committees and the THF board of directors throughout the years. They traveled in from Virginia, Austin, San Antonio, the Dallas metroplex, and local counties to Reba’s Ranch House, and reunited after years of losing touch.


    Golf Tournament Committee Reunion

    An evening of food and swapping stories from the golf course brought back memories of a special time in the lives of those who took part in raising funds for the local hospital and the ranch house.

    At the reunion, Mike enjoyed rare conversations with old friends, the select few who underwent those days of setting up in the wind and rain, then golfing under clear blue skies and winding down the day, exhausted.

    “The reunion was very satisfying and fun, to go back and talk about stuff that you can’t talk about with just anyone,” Mike said.

    Reba sent a video of love and appreciation for the former golf committee members to enjoy during their evening. It brought up memories of how Reba helped hand out trophies after the tournament. Mike recounted attending Reba’s first fundraising concert in Denison when he didn’t know much about her.

    “We left that concert and I told Lynn, she’s really got a voice!” Mike recalled with a chuckle. “Little did we know we were going to get years more of her.”


    Development Committee Reunion

    “Absolutely magical” is how Sherry Christie described the reunion evening for the development committee that once oversaw the Memorial weekend fundraising efforts. 

    “My favorite moment was walking in the door and seeing the people that I hadn’t seen in so long,” Sherry said. “It brought back memories of how hard we’d laugh and how tired we’d get and how it all came together.”

    A slideshow in the dining room showed off hundreds of photos, and prompting stories and laughter. Then the big surprise came for the nearly 100 in attendance.

    “I turned around because I heard a voice that sounded like Reba,” Sherry said. “And there she was on a big screen!  We could see ourselves on the screen, too, so it was almost like in the past. She was as excited to see us as we were to see her.” 

    The party spilled onto the back patio under the night sky, the enthusiasm unabated. Jeanie Graber, another of the early committee members, shared her favorite part of the reunion. 

    “Hugging and laughing and reminiscing with all our friends,” Jeanie said. “Those human contacts, that was such fun. We were all thrilled to see each other and we were proud of the work we had accomplished.”

    “If we had to do another one of those [fundraisers], I know we could get it done,” Sherry said with a laugh. “I looked around and thought, we could do it all over again. We might have to start a little earlier and work a little longer, but there was enough enthusiasm there to put together another concert.”

    Before the night ended, the group gathered for a photo.

    “It was nothing but big smiles,” Sherry said.


    The Development Committee – Sherry, 3rd from the right, and Jeanie, 6th from the right.


    THF Board Reunion

    A young person couldn’t have lived in Denison during the ‘80s and ‘90s and not been part of those fundraising concerts with Reba.

    “I grew up going to all the concerts,”  said John Carey, a past THF board chairman. “As a young person, the concerts were awesome. You wanted to go see the show. Getting older and realizing what it was all about, makes it even more special.”

    For the past and present THF board members, the luncheon reunion was combined with the regular board gathering. The event gave an opportunity for board members to recall what built the THF and Reba’s Ranch House, and recognize those who conserved and perpetuated the legacy.

    “A lot of our board members didn’t know some of the past members,” Joe Fallon said. He is the current chairman of the board. “I thought it was great for them to meet and to show our appreciation, to say, ‘We have not forgotten that you guys did a lot of work and set us up for success. Job well done, and thank you.’”

    Joe Fallon

    Culminating the luncheon was the announcement of a significant donation to THF.

    “The day escalated,” John said. “It went from this jovial time of all of us getting together and enjoying each other’s company, to the reflection of the 30 year anniversary of the ranch house, to ‘oh, by the way, we received an extra six million dollar gift to continue our mission.’”

    The gift came from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, a contribution tied to a larger effort to identify and support organizations across the U.S. who are making a difference in health equity in vulnerable populations, including rural communities.

    John Carey


    Others Not Forgotten

    A common thread through all three reunion events were quiet moments of remembering those who were missing. Many people who took part in the original effort have passed on, making the reunions all the more precious to those who could come.

    “The ranch house and the foundation have been in existence long enough that we are now beginning to lose members,” John said. “[The reunion] was a reminder of everyone’s hard work and how successful the foundation has become, but I think it was there, also, to keep us connected.”


    The Next 30 Years

    Remembering the past paves the way to keep the ranch house and its mission at the forefront of the area communities.

    “There were people over the years who were really interested in what was done, and that was brought up in the conversations,” Mike said. “I told someone, ‘Just think, a quick 30 years and we can do this reunion again.’” 

    He laughed, then added, “Most of us are still healthy and going strong.”

  6. Touring Reba’s Ranch House with Reba McEntire

    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.”


    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting

    Dr. Maggi speaking at the ribbon cutting.


    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.”


    Tony at a holiday event with Reba’s Ranch House partner, Grayson College and Culinary Chef Joanna Bryant.


    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.”


    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire

    Kent touring Reba and her mom Mrs. McEntire in the new ranch house.


    Celebrate Reba and the next 30 years of the ranch house! Give a one-time donation or recurring gift here.

  7. “Reba-time”—The Beginnings of a Big-Hearted Journey

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Music. Food. Parades. Golf tournament. True red, white, blue, and country music Memorial Day weekends came alive in Denison, Texas, all thanks to hearts as big as Texas.

    Over 30 years ago, a tradition started with an entire community coming together for what some dubbed “Reba-time.” The annual fundraising weekend for the local hospital captured the American spirit of selflessly serving your fellow man.

    That was how Dr. Darius Maggi saw it, those early days when, what was then the area’s nonprofit hospital, the Texoma Medical Center was known for having nearly every health offering available at the time. There were few things not housed under its roof.

    And from the beginning, raising funds for health initiatives was all about one thing: The care of the patient.

    The need for care extended to caregivers of patients. This means to create a “caregiver of the caregiver” emerged after one question proposed by local businessman Jerdy Gary, who later became the first chairman of the Texoma Medical Center Foundation (TMCF). The foundation that would ultimately help establish the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) so many years later.

    “Jerdy knew Reba (McEntire) and her family members were my patients,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “So he asked if I thought we could get Reba to do something [for the hospital]. I said, ‘Well, I’ll ask her.”

    Dr. Maggi did just that over lunch one day with Reba. The conversation sparked a monumental time of fundraisers that spanned two decades. Part of those funds built Reba’s Ranch House—a home for caregivers to find refuge while their loved one is hospitalized.

    “It was such a phenomenal community effort across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma,” Dr. Maggi said. “Incredible for a town this size.”

    The first Reba concert was held with her full band in the old Denison High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon in 1987. But they didn’t end there. They spilled out into white tents and parties, then grew every Memorial Day weekend, capturing the heart of surrounding areas with Denison’s Memorial Day Parade, a Reba Charity Golf Classic, home-cooked food, and of course, Reba’s concerts.

    Though simply a small town, the heart of Denison and the communities that surround us could fill Texas. From business owners, to hospital staff and volunteers, to the ladies on the Reba Development Committee, the community came alive to prepare each year for Reba-time.

    “It was a happy time because it was community,” Dr. Maggi said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be about. Our main reason when we set out with all this was to be the beacon of care for people.”

    It all began with that question posed by Jerdy to Dr. Maggi, who remembers Jerdy being like, “a big teddy bear.”

    “He had so much love,” Dr. Maggi recalls. “He was the son of a governor, and he knew something about promotions. He had that deep voice and could articulate extremely well. But he wasn’t about himself. He did not want the limelight, but he had a lot of respect from the community as a great leader.”

    Jerdy passed in 2021, just shy of this 30th year celebrating the opening of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992. But his legacy echoes in the halls and lives through every person who finds refuge within the ranch house.

    After 30 years, Reba’s Ranch House—owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation—still opens its doors to care for caregivers. You can show that same care that began with “Reba-time” by donating here.

    GARY SEWELL / HERALD DEMOCRAT Reba McEntire cuts the ribbon held by Herman Ringler and Dr. Darius Maggi to officially open the new Reba’s Ranch House.

  8. Denison Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Cap Chesser and Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Cap Chesser (right) with friend friend Kris Spiege at the Denison Chamber awards banquet

    On Cap Chesser’s long list of charitable giving and volunteer work, Reba’s Ranch House stands out for reasons that go back a long, long way…

    In third grade, Cap was growing up in east central Oklahoma, near Prague, when his family needed to make an emergency trip to the hospital in Oklahoma City. Cap’s mother was in a bad way during her third pregnancy and they didn’t know if she would survive it.

    During those worrisome days, Cap’s father rented an apartment a full mile from the hospital for the family to stay in during the ordeal.

    Mom was okay, and still is at 93-years-old. But when Cap walked the halls of Reba’s Ranch House, he knew the difference a home away from home, so close to the hospital, would have made for his family back then.

    “I was struck with the mission of Texoma Health Foundation and what they do, and then with Reba’s Ranch House,” Cap says. “I started giving annually, but got more active when I felt there was a need. In 2008, I really started stepping into the waters there.”

    Among Cap’s many charitable contributions, scholarship establishments, and volunteer activities—he was the Paul Kisel Volunteer of the Year 2021 through the Denison Chamber—one of them is the “Leadership Denison” program. Cap helps organize the different areas of focus—from government to tourism—and he puts the ranch house on the agenda to tour during the medical focus day.

    Though someone else guides the leadership group tour, Cap is always there with them to go through the house. They see the footprints Cap and his wife, Jacqueline Vandiver Chesser, have made through the years. It started when the couple sponsored the laundry room, because just like any house—it piles up.

    But it’s the quality of the house that captures people’s heart and attention.

    “It’s an eye opener from the standpoint of how nice the facility is,” Cap says. “They thought it was going to be like a hotel, but it’s not. It’s a completely encapsulated home for the people who are going to be there awhile.”

    After Christmas each year, Cap asks for the ranch house’s leftover wish list for the Denison Rotary Club to take care of. He makes shopping trips to make sure everything is checked off, even if it’s non-glamorous items like dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.

    “There are things that people don’t think about,” Cap says. “One year, the thing that jumped out at me was that they needed a whole stack of trash cans. It’s one of the less beautiful gifts I’ve ever given.”

    But one of his most beautiful gifts was after his wife passed in 2020. Cap set out to keep her memory as part of the places they both loved and admired.

    Cap and his wife, Jacqueline

    One of those was Reba’s Ranch House, and Cap sponsored what he calls the, “I miss you, Mommy,” room. It has a crib, rocker, and a fridge—everything to make a mother feel at home when undergoing a medical crisis.

    It’s the kind of room his wife would have appreciated, and his own mother as well. The impact of their family’s medical crisis early in his life is one reason why the ranch house holds a special place in his heart, and always will.

  9. A Real Thanksgiving

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Scrumptious aromas accompanied the spread of food laid out for Sarah Bradford, her family, and other guests at Reba’s Ranch House on Thanksgiving Day 2019. When the staff invited Sarah to sign up for the communal meal, she had no idea it was going to be an actual Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of their family’s health crisis. There was an abundance of turkey, ham, dressing, and all the trimmings.

    Having to spend the holiday away from home in order to be near their loved one at the hospital was strenuous, but it turned out to be a real family and friends Thanksgiving for Sarah, her two teens, and mother-in-law, Shirley.

    When Sarah’s sister-in-law, Kelli, was admitted into a Texas hospital with pneumonia in October, a series of trips began for the family. 77-year-old Shirley started making the eight-hour one-way drive from Arkansas to be with her daughter, Kelli, as much as possible. The family alternated stays in different hotels — some of them dicey. Sarah was constantly concerned about her mother-in-law’s safety, finances, and the lonely drive. Shirley was exhausted and had run out of money for hotels. 

    But in November, their caseworker shared about the option of staying at Reba’s Ranch House. Shirley would have been forced to drive back-and-forth to Arkansas at least four more times had she not stayed at the house.

    “I never knew something like this even existed,” Sarah says. “Every day, someone would bring food and donate it, mostly from churches. When I was not there, I felt so much better knowing Shirley was being taken care of. She literally would not have a dime left if she had to pay for all that. Plus she made friends and they were able to comfort each other. It just made it so much easier on her.”

    On Thanksgiving weekend, Kelli faced a tracheotomy. Sarah and her 16-year-old daughter Annie and 14-year-old son Asa made the urgent trip from Arkansas to be with Kelli and Shirley. They likely could not have made the trip without the option to stay at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “We had already been down there several times, and spent a lot of money,” Sarah says. 

    The four of them bundled into one of the rooms at Reba’s Ranch House with a queen bed that Shirley and Asa shared. Staff members brought in two cots. The family had fun pushing them together at the end of the large bed for Sarah and Annie.

    Kelli was not doing well that stormy weekend. It was emotionally draining for them all, especially Sarah’s teens as they watched over their aunt. But Kelli took a turn for the better after the visit. She didn’t need the tracheotomy.

    “We stayed with her for four days,” Sarah says. “She couldn’t talk on the phone, so us being there lifted her spirits and helped her get through it. I really, really believe that. She was so sick.”

    The family experienced a real Thanksgiving at Reba’s Ranch House, a place Sarah believes helped save Kelli’s life.

  10. Keeping the House Feeling Like Home and Hope

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Cameron Bates entered the dining area at Reba’s Ranch House to check on things. As an intern at the house, he was accustomed to making rounds, doing any clean up, and helping guests. But that day was different. A lone woman stood in the kitchen, crying.

    Having worked at the ranch house since 2019, Cameron had seen people come in from all walks of life. One thing he learned from his parents: You never know what someone is going through, but you can always pray with them.

    Cameron asked the woman if he could help and she told him she was having to let go of her son that day. They talked and prayed, then she gave Cameron a big hug. 

    “She said, ‘You don’t know how much that helped me,’” Cameron recalls, then added, “When people come here, they have a lot on their shoulders. But at the ranch house, we can stop whatever we’re doing and sit and pray with guests. Prayer is very powerful.”

    Joining up with Reba’s Ranch House was a natural fit for Cameron’s life as a college student, despite the two-hour round trip drive he makes to the house from his family’s cattle ranch. Growing up on the ranch, Cameron became a lifelong fan of Reba McEntire. When he received the call that they had accepted him for the intern position at Reba’s Ranch House, he was over the moon.

    His official internship ended after graduation, but he just couldn’t leave. Though he had started his own business, Cameron chose to remain with the ranch house part-time.

    “When you walk through the door, it feels like home,” he says. “I knew it was a special place from that first time.”

    Cameron has a hand in nearly every aspect of the house to keep it feeling like a home — and like hope.

    “When the guests come back and forth from the hospital, we know it’s hard for them,” he says. “Anything I can do to make their stay more comfortable, I’ll do it.”

    One question he often hears when checking people in at the front desk is, How long do I have?

    “Reba McEntire wanted the ranch house set up to allow them to stay as long as their loved one is in the hospital,” he says. “That’s the most beautiful thing. People are travelling from out of state and may have to be here for weeks. I’ve heard of people staying in their cars or sleeping on a park bench. For someone to come here and not have to pay anything, that shocks many people. Reba has put her heart and soul into this place, and being able to work here is a dream come true.”


    Reba’s Ranch House is owned and operated by the Texoma Health Foundation. If you would like to become a caregiver of caregivers like Cameron, you can contribute to the house today through donating or volunteering.