30th anniversary

Category Archives: Volunteers

  1. Feeding the Sheep — Grace Sunday School Class’s Meal Ministry to Reba’s Ranch House

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Sue Miller knows what it’s like to spend long stretches away from home. She and her husband stayed in a hospitality house for six weeks when their special needs child was hospitalized. She experienced firsthand how vital it was to have a place to sleep, shower, and all the things she needed while away from home. 

    Later, she told her husband she would love to work at a place like that. Joining the Grace Sunday School Class of the First Baptist Church in Sherman, she was excited to learn that’s just what the class does for Reba’s Ranch House.

    “I just think it’s wonderful,” Sue says. “My husband’s family used the ranch house when my father-in-law was passing. None of the kids lived here, and I didn’t have room for everybody, plus the ranch house was so close to the hospital.”

    Sue Miller (right), Sue Foster (left)

    When Sue walks into the Sunday school and sees her name on the calendar, her reaction is different from other obligations.

    “I love doing it,” she says. “A lot of times, you are reminded of things and go, ‘Oh shoot, I gotta go do that.’ But when I see it’s my turn for Reba’s Ranch House, I say, ‘Okay, it’s my turn.’ I’m very thankful I’m able to do it.”

    The ministry started twelve years ago after Anita Rawls faced an out-of-town challenge when her mother was placed in hospice care. Anita refused to leave the hospital. From Friday night until her mother passed the following Wednesday, she didn’t step foot out of the facility.

    At some point during that time, a nurse came into the room and told Anita, “We have food down in the kitchen, you come get whatever you want.”

    Anita went to the kitchen and was amazed to find ready-to-eat meals to dish up. Casseroles, breakfast foods, and snacks were available throughout her long vigil.

    When Anita returned home, she and a friend reached out to Marilyn Bice, director at Reba’s Ranch House. Anita wanted to organize her Grace Sunday School Class to bring food and anything else Reba’s Ranch House needed for guests every week.

    Now, about 25 ladies from the Grace Sunday School Class are signed up to fulfill food needs at the ranch house.

    Sue Foster, another volunteer with the class, knows what it’s like to camp out during a medical situation. She slept on a couch in her pregnant daughter’s hospital room for six weeks in Oklahoma City.

    “I was constantly running out to get her something to eat,” Sue says. “If I’d had food available there for me, I would have felt overwhelmed with gratitude like Anita. It brought her to tears, and still brings her to tears when she thinks about what the volunteers at the hospital did for her and her mom.”

    Like the other Sue, Sue Foster doesn’t dread when her turn comes to bring food to the ranch house.

    Sue Foster

    “I’ve got it in my phone when my days are,” she says. “And when I walk into Sunday School and see it’s my week, I sit down and text Marilyn, ‘What do we need?’”


    Simple acts of kindness from volunteers like the Grace Sunday School Class make all the difference at Reba’s Ranch House.

    If you are interested in donating to the house to help support buying groceries for families, click here.

    You can play a vital role in being a caregiver of caregivers!

    “…And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” –John 21:17 (NKJV)


  2. Keeping the Ranch House Running

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer 


    Down by the old Southern Pacific Railhouse on E. Houston in Sherman sat a nondescript welding shop. It was to this welding shop that Bert Bond trekked in the summers of the 1950s and 60s. 

    His granddad had opened the shop around the 1920s, and his dad went to work in it after World War II. There were always chores for Bert to do—sweeping the floors, painting metal projects. His main reason for being there, though, was because he had an endless curiosity for how things worked and how to fix them. That curiosity led Bert to an electrical engineering degree and a 41-year career at Texas Instruments. 

    Now retired, Bert is still fixing things.

    Around Reba’s Ranch House—a home away from home for caregivers—there is always a lightbulb that needs to be changed, a sink to unstop, or a flapper valve to replace. Bert is on call for the ranch house whenever they need him, whether it’s fixing something, or saying a prayer with a ranch house guest. 

    “God is good to us,” Bert says. “A lot of times people just need someone to listen to them and cheer their day up. I think everyone could use a good word, or for someone to say a prayer for them and their family. It gives them hope and lifts them up for the day. And that’s basically what we’re here for, to make this place a better world.”



    Helping people, especially with their medical needs, runs in Bert’s family through his mom and sister who were in healthcare. He is also using his retirement years to work in his church as the maintenance person and especially helping elderly ladies who need lightbulbs changed. 

    A Jack of all trades, Bert’s early days of working in his granddad’s welding shop, and his Boy Scout merit badges for electricity and plumbing prepared him for the good work he now does. 

    “And it keeps me out of trouble,” he said with a laugh.

    The staff couldn’t imagine the world without Bert.

    “He keeps us running,” says Marilyn Bice, director of Reba’s Ranch House. “He is kind, considerate, and solves most of our problems.”

    Bert started helping around the ranch house over a decade ago when he installed handicap grab bars for the guest bathrooms. He saw the mission of the ranch house up close and knew he wanted to continue being a part of it.

    “Reba’s Ranch House is such a blessing to our area and those needing a place to stay and unwind after a long day and night staying with their loved one in the hospital,” Bert says. “It is a privilege and pleasure working with all the wonderful individuals who work and volunteer here at the Ranch House.”

  3. Feel-Good Meals to Soothe During Difficult Times

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer 


    Sometimes when guests drive up to Reba’s Ranch House, they are on their last gallon of gas. Having a cozy room to stay in while their loved one is hospitalized is already a gift, but they soon learn the hospitality doesn’t end there. A hot meal often awaits them in the ranch house’s kitchen.  Read the rest of this entry »

  4. 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.”

  5. Constructing the New Home Away From Home

    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.

    Kent featured in a local magazine during construction (at the RRH build-site)

    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. 

    Kent and his team moving the quilt.

    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.”

    Phil, his wife Betty (right), and Michelle Lemming (Left, CEO & President of THF)

    You can continue building on the legacy of Reba’s Ranch House in our 30th year when you become a donor here.

  6. The Reba Golf Tournaments: Winning an Ultimate Prize

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    “They were looking for a sucker, and I didn’t realize it.” 

    That was how Jim Bono became involved with the committee that organized the fundraising tournament for the local hospital, and later, Reba’s Ranch House.

    Jim had no regrets after getting roped into helping wrangle the annual affair that featured celebrities from Dallas Cowboy players to up-and-coming country music stars. And of course, Reba always made an appearance.

    Ronnie Cole, who was on the committee from the first year onward and was later chairman of it, recalled, “Reba would ride around on a golf cart visiting each team. That meant a lot to everyone. A couple of times, she stayed to hand out trophies. It was huge to have a superstar like her spend time with us.”

    But long before prizes were awarded, a load of work faced the 15 committee members and dozens of volunteers. After months of planning and coordinating, Memorial Day morning started on the golf course at 6AM for Jim and Ronnie. Some years, they slogged through muddy terrain to prepare for the 18 teams and 180 golfers. But in over 15 years, the tournament was never rained out. 

    Before the 9AM tee time, they welcomed celebrity golfers like Micky Mantle, Troy Aikman, Barry Switzer, and Vince Gill, though the country music singer had to leave early to prepare for that evening’s Reba concert.

    Not everything was a hit with the participants, nor the committee. Ronnie and Jim still scoff about the “infamous yellow ball” contest.

    “It was awful,” Ronnie said. “I don’t know whose idea it was, but I’m going to blame Jim.”

    “I don’t know who to blame, but we want to blame someone for it,” Jim said with a laugh. “Like we needed something else to make the day longer.”

    The bad idea was a scramble tournament where every team had a yellow ball to keep track of. If you lost your yellow ball, you were out, and the team that came in with the lowest score won a prize.

    “People got so tired of keeping up with their yellow ball, they’d hit it out of bounds on purpose,” Ronnie added. 

    There was plenty of success at each tournament, especially the number of sponsor prizes given out that ranged from umbrellas to golf shoes. The committee was proud of the number of women golfers who competed.

    “We had prizes for women only,” Jim said. “Very few tournaments do that.”

    At the end of each tournament, the committee kicked back and talked about the day, accessing what went well and what didn’t. The putting green and high number of prizes remained over the years, and sometimes the committee quadrupled their fundraising goal.

    “I think people took an interest in the cause, which was the ranch house,” Jim said. “The house is one of those things you hope you never have to use, but you’re so glad it’s there when you do. We felt like we had a small piece of something to help others for years and years to come.”

    “That’s what I think back on, the legacy of having the ranch house,” Ronnie said.

    The work Ronnie and Jim put in, along with many committee members and volunteers, pays dividends today. Seven days a week, weary caregivers take refuge in Reba’s Ranch House during some of the stormiest days of their lives. 

    Become a caregiver of caregivers today by contributing here to the daily operations of the house.

  7. Feeding the Masses

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    It was springtime, and Horace Groff just couldn’t say no when asked to volunteer for the upcoming fundraising concert. That was how he became involved with “feeding the masses” each Memorial Day weekend before the annual Reba concert, raising funds for the local hospital and Reba’s Ranch House. 

    What started as a one-day event exploded when the concerts shifted from the football stadium where Horace and fellow volunteers grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. The concerts moved to the airport and the grills were replaced with mega smokers where the cooking crews fed people 15-18 hours a day for a whole week. Reba would bring in multiple semis plus buses filled with equipment.

    “That was the kind of show she put on,” Horace said. “It was always top quality, and there were a lot of people in the background to make it happen.”

    With those semis and buses came lots of people backstage looking for something to do—and something to eat. Then there were the local volunteers to feed: Staff from the hospital freely offered their time; students from the high school earned a concert ticket by setting up chairs; the ladies of the Reba Development Committee who organized everything.

    And Horace was in the midst of it all, helping keep hundreds of people fed.

    “Some workers would start at daylight, then they’d finish and another crew would come in,” Horace recalled the shifts. “The food service director at the hospital coordinated and bought the food. We would show up and do briskets and sometimes fried fish. There were several of us with cooking equipment, and we always felt good about giving back to the community.”

    Born and raised in Denison, Horace served as the county judge for 21 years, so another unique task fell to him. He became a liaison between the committee and the airport, helping iron out wrinkles in flight schedules, timing for setup and the concert.

    The Memorial Day concert got underway at dark as the late spring heat cooled from the day. Horace and the brisket smokers were set up backstage and he had no trouble hearing the lively concerts. 

    Still, the best part for him was the fellowship—everyone from big name country stars to high schoolers.

    “You had a lot of people backstage,” Horace said. “It got to be quite a production to get all that done, but we had hundreds of volunteers show up and pitch in. A good time was had by all.”

    The monumental effort Horace and his cooking crew put forward is paying dividends today for every caregiver who finds refuge at Reba’s Ranch House.


    After 30 years, “Feeding the masses” remains part of the ranch house. Churches and other community members bring food weekly for exhausted caregivers to have a hot meal and snacks. The kitchen in the ranch house is available to caregivers 24/7.

    You can continue Horace and the food crew’s legacy of feeding hungry souls by contributing to the ranch house here

  8. Making the Ranch House Part of His Life — Dr. Timothy Parker’s Story

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Box fans kept the air moving at the event, one of the earliest fundraisers for Reba’s Ranch House. It was warm under the big tent, but Dr. Timothy Parker didn’t mind.

    He had prime seating at the dinner table — right next to Reba McEntire and her family.

    Dr. Parker with his wife and Reba


    Dr. Parker and the Reba’s Ranch House Story

    Practicing medicine in Dallas in the early 1990s, Dr. Parker wanted to make a change for his family. They drove to Denison to check out the hospital there and speak to the hospital administrator. During the conversation, the administrator offered Dr. Parker tickets to an upcoming Reba McEntire concert. 

    Though Dr. Parker couldn’t go that year, it was his introduction to fundraising for Reba’s Ranch House.

    After moving his practice to Denison, Dr. Parker made the fundraisers, and ultimately the ranch house, a part of his life. Besides those early fundraisers, he has served on the Texoma Health Foundation board the past 4 years. To this day, he swings by a local store and picks up items that the ranch house needs, like trash bags and paper towels.

    “Just those little things you can bring are so appreciated by the staff,” Dr. Parker says. “It makes a tremendous difference for them and the people staying there.”

    When he first transferred to the hospital, he saw tiny newborns he’d delivered who needed to remain in the nursery on IVs. Their exhausted parents had nowhere to stay as close as they needed — except Reba’s Ranch House. 

    “They could be at the hospital in a matter of moments if something happened with babies,” Dr. Parker says. “It didn’t cost them anything. What a nice place for them to have a comfortable bed, a place to relax, and if anything happened, they’d be right there.”

    For Dr. Parker, taking care of patients comes first. That’s why he’s continued supporting the ranch house since his first experience of sitting at a fundraising dinner table with Reba. 

    There were a great many more experiences at the fundraisers — meals on the grass lawn of the old hospital…the airport tarmacwhere a jet flew in and then a miniature jet appeared on stage and out came Reba. From parades to golf tournaments, Reba McEntire always brought a celebration to town. And it was all for the best reasons.

    “We’re doing this for patients,” Dr. Parker says. “What a great asset we’ve been blessed with here in Denison. Thank you, thank you to Reba for helping get this started.”


    Reba’s Ranch House is now funded by individuals like you through the Texoma Health Foundation. You can become a caregiver of caregivers when you partner with Reba’s Ranch House by contributing — it’s as simple as dropping off a bag of paper goods or making a donation through our page here.


  9. Third Graders, Bible Pages, and Loads of Grocery Sacks

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Reba’s Heroes:

    A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    From the early days of Reba’s Ranch House, the heart of volunteers beat throughout the space to bring peace and comfort to all the guests who walk through the door.

    This series is our chance to publicly thank our precious volunteers who consistently show up and provide for the many needs we have. The ranch house operates like any home — laundry, meals, cleaning, bedding, prayers. 

    We couldn’t exist without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you!



    Sweet Innocence

    “I wonder if they liked my picture, or if my verse helped them?”

    These are sweetly innocent questions third graders at the Texoma Christian Schools ask as they color pumpkins, flowers, and chapels on their cursive pages’ borders. 

    Their teachers, Kathy Lindsey and Twila Thomas, explain to the children that they will never see the person who receives their Bible verse page. But they can pray for them and know the people will be touched by the pages sitting on nightstands in the guest rooms at Reba’s Ranch House.

    “We tell them, ‘Before you start coloring and writing your verse down, we want you to pray about that paper you’re decorating, and pray for the person who’s going to receive it, even though you don’t know who they are,” Kathy says. “And they do; they say a prayer for the person that’s going to read their Bible verse and see their coloring.”

    For the past twelve years, Texoma Christian School’s Third-Grade classes have adopted Reba’s Ranch House for their annual Care-A-Thon project. Kathy puts out large paper grocery sacks in the fall with a list of things stapled to the sacks that the pantry at the Ranch House needs — from cake mixes to spaghetti sauce — and the children take the empty sacks home to fill them. Once full, they return them, and many ask if they can do another one, excited as they watch the sacks fill the back of the classroom. They’re reaching the goal: filling up the pantry at Reba’s Ranch House! One hundred children have walked through the door at the house for the project over the years.

    “I tell them there’s a loved one at the hospital, and they’re tired,” Kathy says. “They need a place to shower and get some rest rather than sitting in a chair all the time.”

    The class, with moms and grandmothers along to help, arrive at Reba’s Ranch House, they are welcomed in.

    “Marilyn will give them a tour, and they see Reba’s guitars and that the house even has a place for little ones,” Kathy says. “And if we’re really, really quiet and there is an empty room, Marilyn will show them the quilts and the beds where the guests stay. At the end, the moms have pizza delivered, and we sit in the kitchen there with our very good manners.”

    When parents and grandparents experience the work that goes on in Reba’s Ranch House, some decide to come back and volunteer.

    The children also visit the kitchen pantry where the staples they collected are stored. They present their Bible pages to Marilyn, knowing the pages will go on nightstands of guests staying at the ranch house.

    “They get it, that people are tired and need a good place to sleep,” Kathy says. “The children pour their little hearts out for them.”

  10. The Comfort of a Country Quilt

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Reba’s Heroes:

    A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    From the early days of Reba’s Ranch House, the heart of volunteers beat throughout the space to bring peace and comfort to all the guests who walk through the door.

    This series is our chance to publicly thank our precious volunteers who consistently show up and provide for the many needs we have. The ranch house operates like any home — laundry, meals, cleaning, bedding, prayers. 

    We couldn’t exist without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you!



    Handmade Comfort

    When guests come to Reba’s Ranch House, it’s because they are experiencing a crippling crisis, something that pulls them almost to the floor.

    But instead, they have a place to rest. Opportunities to talk with someone and pray. Handmade quilts to draw over them like a grandmother’s hug.

    In 1990, before Reba’s Ranch House officially opened, local ladies worked through the Grayson County Extension Office to take on a tremendous project — crafting twenty handmade quilts for the bedrooms where guests at the house stay.

    It started when Jerri Lane, Grayson County Extension Agent, was asked to gather a small troop of ladies to dedicate two years to design and make the quilts. Jerri was an agent at the extension office for over thirty years.

    With several ladies on the project, they started at a quilt shop in Denton to choose colors and decide on patterns. On that first trip, they bought $1,000 worth of fabric. The volunteers consisted of Anne Gary, Jeanie Graber, Jerri Lane, Jana Caroyl, and co-chairman Gerry Dougherty.

    Gerry fondly recalls the adventure. “We had a plan, a full committee, designs for each quilt, and a start. Two of the ladies taught us the new name for a certain red — the Reba Red. It was more of a barn red, but that and the blues we used throughout our project took on a whole new meaning!”

    They worked out of the extension office at the Grayson County Courthouse, tables spilling over with fabric, supplies, and always a quilt in the frame. The ladies kept busy for a year and a half and were ready to present the quilts at a special tea attended by Reba McEntire’s mom and dad. The quilts were added to the guest rooms at the original Reba’s Ranch House and later transferred to the new building.

    “We also did thirty-one shams for the pillows on the beds — eight bedrooms full,” Gerry says. “We were delighted to be involved in such a worthy project. Ann Arnold, who worked at Reba’s Ranch House for a long time, took good care of the quilts. When she washed them, she would dry them over the rails of the porch. What a pretty sight they were!”

    And what a sight they are for everyone who walks into a guest room at Reba’s Ranch House, greeted with the comfort of a handmade quilt.