30th anniversary

News & Needs Archive

  1. 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.”

  2. A Medical Legacy from Indian Territory to Denison, Texas

    Article by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    Dr. Benjamin Denison was practicing medicine in Indian Territory when his wife passed. He married again, this time to full-blood Choctaw Susan Oaks. Their two sons, Harry and Hilliard, were both members of the Choctaw Nation. Hilliard, born with a cleft palate, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Harry started his own family. His son, little Harry, was only two years old when his father tragically drowned.

    Susan Oaks and her husband, Charles Denison with their sons
    Harry (“Doc”) and Hilliard Denison (Girl’s name unknown.)

    Little Harry, born in Idabel, Oklahoma in 1932, grew up with support and encouragement from his widowed mother. Determined to break out of poverty, he took his first job at Humpy and Amy’s Cafe when he was eight years old. He worked on asphalt roads, and followed the wheat harvest to Canada and back. He was one of those laborers known as “wheaties.” 

    Harry achieved his goal of going to college, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Benjamin by becoming a doctor upon graduating from Baylor College of Medicine. Harry went on to the University of Oklahoma for his residency in urology.

    In high school, Harry had met Phyllis Jane Hardin. They married in his college years, and chose the small town of Denison to settle in, where Dr. Harry L. Denison was the only urologist between Oklahoma City and Dallas. He worked at Madonna hospital, the Katy (MKT railroad) hospital, and TMC (Texoma Medical Center), and also practiced medicine in Durant, Oklahoma for many years.

    “He was always very proud of his Choctaw heritage,” says his daughter, Lea Denison Freemyer. “His uncle Hilliard, who worked for the Bureau of Indian affairs, helped my dad get us CDIB cards. Later in life, my dad did a Choctaw language class online. It was a very important part of who he was.”

    Lea worked at his Denison office while in high school and summers in college. She witnessed how hardships in his childhood developed the work ethic he continued to show throughout his practice and his lifetime.

    In the 1980s, when Reba McEntire came to Denison to raise money for Reba’s Ranch House, Lea’s parents looked forward to the event every year with dinner under the tent. 

    Dr. Harry Denison passed unexpectedly in Lea’s home, five years after his wife Phyllis’s passing. Lea and her brothers wanted to honor their memory and contacted Reba’s Ranch House about instituting the Granny and Doc Playground, as the couple was fondly called by their grandchildren. In 2017, Lea and her brothers contributed the initial funds for the playground.

    “A playground on site allows a guest and their children to be outside in a protected area to work out some of their stress through play,” says Marilyn Bice, director of Reba’s Ranch House. “It is a small way for us to protect our children’s future mental health.” 

    From a medical practice in Indian Territory during the 19th century, through the 20th century in the states of Texas and the newly formed Oklahoma, to the 21st century with Lea’s son, Dr. Benjamin Denison Freemyer, this family works hard for the health of people in their communities. The Granny and Doc Playground continues that legacy. 

    Enjoy this special video of the new playground!

  3. Expanding Love and Service at Reba’s Ranch House

    A decade ago, Reba’s Ranch House was bursting at the seams with housing hundreds of vulnerable guests annually. Each individual needed a safe place to stay while their loved one was hospitalized. Thus began our partnership with international design firm HKS as they designed the new Reba’s Ranch House in 2010, the one we currently use to host 850 guests each year.

    Running such an operation of love requires regular board meetings and also offices for the Texoma Health Foundation (THF) which owns and operates Reba’s Ranch House. THF cares for several nonprofits doing good work in our community, and for individuals who find themselves in difficult circumstances at local healthcare facilities in Grayson and Fannin counties in North Texas and Bryan and Marshall counties in Southern Oklahoma. 

    When THF needed more space to operate, Reba’s Ranch House once again turned to HKS.


    Citizen HKS — A Public Interest Design Initiative 


    Reba’s Ranch House and THF partnered with HKS once again, this time through the firm’s public interest design initiative, Citizen HKS Project. This opened the way for a new 1,700 square feet space that not only benefits Reba’s Ranch House but numerous non-profits in our community. The meeting room Citizen HKS designed has become a community space for nonprofits throughout the area.

    “We had identified this as an important community need,” says Marilyn Bice, director at Reba’s Ranch House. “And within two and a half months, it was full. We have meetings in the mornings, at noon, at night. And we have all of our THF and Reba’s Ranch House board meetings there, too.”

    On the porch

    Read the Design Story


    What a privilege it has been to work with HKS through the years and on this functional, beautiful new space! Please enjoy a special post about the expansion written by Candace Goodman, a senior designer at HKS Dallas. Discover the lessons she learned and the love she shared during the project: Click here to read the full story.

  4. 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.

  5. The Ranch House Angel

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


    A guest trudged down the hallway at Reba’s Ranch House. She was coming in from the hospital where her mother had just passed. 

    Something hung from the doorknob to the room where she was staying, a note with a Bible verse from Psalms. At that moment, the card with the scripture verse was what she needed.

     A few years later, this guest returned to Reba’s Ranch House when her mother-in-law was hospitalized. The guest went to the front desk and found Jeri Carosella, the one who had hung the card on her doorknob years before. She expressed to Jeri what it had meant to her.

    “Her sister took her mother’s robe and made her a pillow,” Jeri says. “She keeps that card in the pocket of the pillow. She said she will have it the rest of her life. You never know who you’re touching, even with something as simple as writing out a message.”

    Jeri has worked at Reba’s Ranch House since 2013. In those days, her husband — who held degrees as an aircraft engineer, aerospace engineer, and was a Ph.D. Nuclear Fusion Scientist — had a full schedule with volunteering for a senior exercise class. 

    “I would tease him by saying, ‘You have all those degrees, and you married a simple high school teacher,’” Jeri recalls with a laugh. “He responded by saying that without teachers, there could be no engineers or scientists.”

    Jeri sought the Lord to uncover what she should do for His Kingdom in the next season of her life. She believes He led her to Reba’s Ranch House. 

    Serving in Guest Relations, she prays for people, writes poems and scriptures on cards to hang on their doors, and gives them hugs when they need it so desperately.

    “Everybody who comes through this door is going through a tribulation in their life,” Jeri says. “If they come through this door, somebody is in the hospital.”

    Jeri has faced her own tragedies. Among them, her husband of 31 years passed at the end of 2018. But he loved the work she did at Reba’s Ranch House and wanted her to continue being a compassionate prayer warrior. She is known as, “The Ranch House Angel.”

    With Jeri’s shift starting in the mornings, she greets guests as they come and go from the hospital. They sometimes congregate around the front desk, where her arms are always open to offer a hug. She calls it “God’s medicine.”

    “When you give somebody a hug, you don’t know what it’s doing for them, what they’re going through, how much they needed that hug,” she says.

    Every day, Jeri puts on her most beautiful accessory for work: her smile.

    “I believe I am where I’m supposed to be, walking in the plan the Lord has for me,” Jeri adds.

    Countless guests, some experiencing the worst circumstances in their life, have been touched by this Ranch House Angel.

  6. The Story Behind Reba’s Miniature Barn

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    Barry Roberson drove his golf cart up to the lonely pine tree in a field behind his house. Grief from the passing of his father was still fresh, and after a visit to the doctor’s, Barry was facing his own mortality. It was time for a serious talk with God.

    Barry’s father had been a faithful man, going on church visitations every week even when his voice was taken by ALS. It wasn’t until after his passing that people told Barry they went to church because his dad visited them.

    But Barry was aggravated with God that day under the lonely pine. His doctor diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. The doctor said Barry was terminal, with no more than ten years left. Likely less than four in his advanced condition.

    “God, I don’t understand,” Barry recalled his prayer. “You made the most faithful man I knew die a terrible death. Now I’ve lost my job and my ability to drive. I wish You’d tell me what You think I’m going to do for the next four years.”

    Barry sat under that pine tree, waiting for an answer. He got one.

    Build dollhouses.

    “I said something like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Barry recalled.

    Halfway home on the golf cart, Barry stopped. If that was God speaking to him, maybe it was a mistake to leave. He went back and continued the conversation.

    “God, You know where my heart is, and You know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t, so I’m going to do whatever You tell me.”

    Build dollhouses.

    “I thought that was the stupidest thing,” Barry says. “But I said, ‘Okay.’”

    As it turned out, building dollhouses was indeed God’s answer for Barry’s life. His doctor encouraged him to start immediately, that it would be excellent mental and physical therapy.

    Barry’s wife, Dawn, was instantly on board. Though Barry had built his daughter a dollhouse years before, he didn’t know what to do with new ones. Dawn gave him clear direction.

    “My wife is my partner in everything,” Barry says. “She’s my driver and my biggest cheerleader. She takes care of me. But one day I told Dawn, ‘I can’t imagine doing this for four years.’”

    Dawn told him he needed a cause, and suggested he build a dollhouse for a little girl at their church who had cancer. 

    “I built her a house and the feeling was totally different,” Barry says. “It felt like I had purpose.”

    Barry never accepts money for his dollhouses, even from wealthy patrons. He’s partnered with several non-profits, including the Ronald McDonald house. Though he lives in Monroe, North Carolina, his dollhouses are now in ten states.

    Still, the past nine years haven’t been easy. In the first years, Barry’s health conditions caused him to fall every day. He broke 37 bones. But he kept building dollhouses.

    And Barry had Reba McEntire to keep him company.

    For years, Barry had the TV on while he built dollhouses. He switched the channel when it stopped airing Reba to the next station that featured her.

    One day, a friend recommended Barry reach out to Reba’s Ranch House. He did, and that led to his 150th dollhouse, a red barn with Reba’s concerts featured inside.

    “I just do what God tells me,” Barry said. “Just when you think you feel bad for yourself, you take a dollhouse somewhere, and out comes a little girl who has no hair. You think, ‘What do I have to complain about?’”

    Barry (left) donating the miniature barn to Reba’s Ranch House

    You can see more of Barry’s work on his website here.

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  7. Uprooted But Cared For

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer 


    When Montine Jones walked into Reba’s Ranch House, apprehensive and alone, she felt lost. 

    For several weekends, she had driven from Edmond, Oklahoma, to see her husband Jay who was fighting Covid at the hospital in Denison. The constant travel and stress was wearing on Montine’s health. As a heart attack survivor, she knew she couldn’t care for him if she lost her own health. That left Montine fighting on two fronts. 

    Driving back and forth while still working her job needed to end. Though she dreaded leaving her dedicated support group of their friends and church family in Oklahoma, Montine packed her bags and prepared to take up residence in Denison for the long haul.

    Uprooting frightened her, but she was surprised to find herself treated like the most important person to ever walk through the doors at Reba’s Ranch House. Mitch Gray (Guest Relations), Marilyn Bice (Director), and Jeri Carosella (Guest Relations) welcomed Montine warmly into what would become her home for the next five weeks.

    A New Home and Family

    Montine immediately felt the love and prayers surrounding her in the ranch house. She was in a place where caregivers are cared for.

    Between Montine and Jay’s grown children, their grandchildren, and her sister, she was surrounded by

    immediate family every weekend. Her daughter even set up a surprise anniversary table of pie and wedding pictures in Jay’s hospital room for he and Montine’s 31st wedding anniversary.

    Montine and Jay prior to his illness.

    But when the family went home after a weekend, Montine knew she could get through the week with nothing to worry about, being blessed with a place to stay and new friends. All her needs were taken care of at the ranch house, and she began to give that love and care to others in return.

    As the longest guest during the time she was in the house, Montine saw many families come and go. It became a ministry for her to talk to new arrivals, helping them feel comfortable at the Ranch House and offering fresh baked goods she made in the house’s kitchen. Fellow guests thought she was part of the staff, and each person presented an opportunity for her to make a friend.


    New Support Group

    Every day, Montine was able to walk back and forth from the hospital, giving her the feeling that Jay was just around the corner. And every day, the Reba’s Ranch House staff asked if there were changes and prayed with her often.

    “The staff listened when it wasn’t good news, loved me when I wasn’t lovable, and took care of my needs,” Montine says. “It truly helped take away my daily worries and encouraged me. Jay never knew about Reba’s Ranch House, but he would have loved it and been so proud to know you comforted, blessed, and took wonderful care of his wife.”

    Montine entered Reba’s Ranch House feeling apprehensive and alone; she departed with the unconditional love the house gave her that is still in her heart.

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  8. Keeping Watch Over His Preemie Son

    “Here I stand hours on end,
    My days and nights are starting to blend.
    Hoping and praying our great Lord saves my new best friend.
    My eyes are bloodshot, my heart aches for you,
    Here I stand waiting for the day I actually hold you.”

    — Poem by Ryan Heflin

    Parents yearn to stay near to their preemie son

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    John (Ryan) Heflin hovered in the Texoma Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where his 4 lbs. 11 oz. preemie son lay with an underdeveloped lung. Newborn Remington Lane Heflin was losing weight. Nearly three decades before, Ryan was a preemie himself who was given a 1 percent chance of surviving. Born at 1 lb. 7 oz., the medical professionals went to work immediately to provide Ryan with a shot at life. He had open-heart surgery at three days old, the first of many major procedures he would face.

    Years later, the time came for Ryan to camp out in another hospital room, keeping watch over his own preemie son. His wife, Camillea, had yet to hold Remington. After an emergency C-section at a hospital in Durant, Oklahoma, she had remained there in recovery a few days. She was finally able to join them at the TMC NICU, but the couple did not have a place to stay close to their son.

    Reba’s Ranch House provides comfort

    The hospital helped set them up at Reba’s Ranch House. When Ryan and Camillea arrived, the front entrance reminded Ryan of a hotel, but once inside, it was just like a regular home.

    “Jeri [Carosella] did our walk-through and told us we could go in and out of the house whenever we needed to,” Ryan says. “Her son had been premature, too. I told her my story and our boy’s story. By the end of the walk-through, we were hugging.”

    Capturing the story for himself and his son

    During the ordeal, Ryan’s aunt gave him a devotional journal. He began chronicling the minutes of his son’s new life, then continued to write of all the difficulties they endured for the pregnancy and birth. His writing turned to what he had experienced as a preemie.

    The journal is developing into a book of the parallel journey of father and son, Ryan and Remington — preemies three decades apart.

    “I just started writing,” Ryan says. “I’ve never written a book in my life, but I’m sure your heart can make you do things, and if it’s meant to be, it’s going to work out. I feel God has me here for a reason. Throughout the book, I tell the audience that it’s God’s life, and He has a story to tell. I’m just here to live it.”

    The book includes the role Reba’s Ranch House played in the story.

    “We were in the NICU all hours, going to visit Remington whenever,” Ryan says. “We couldn’t have done that if it weren’t for the house. We probably wouldn’t have been able to see our son every day.”

    Good news at Christmas

    With treatment at the NICU, Remington finally began gaining weight, and on Christmas Day 2019, Ryan and Camillea took him home. Someday, Remington can read his father’s book of their parallel preemie experiences.

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  9. Watching the Winds of Change

    Reba’s Heroes: A Series Highlighting Our Wonderful Volunteers

    Due to COVID 19, we had to cancel our annual volunteer luncheon that we hold to honor our amazing volunteers! In our effort to cover the many aspects of volunteering at Reba’s Ranch House we found a plethora of wonderful stories. In the coming months, we will cover the many ways to volunteer at Reba’s Ranch House. Read some of our 28 years worth of stories and see if you are visualizing yourself joining these beautiful souls giving their time and love to those who need it. Remember: Studies show that volunteers stay healthier, are more active, and live longer with more productive lives. We are here and would love to talk to you about volunteering and we always need a volunteer somewhere!

    Thank you so much for reading our stories and going through this unexpected year holding us close to your heart. Thank you, Thank you! We are here and will continue to be here while we find our new normal!

    May the Lord bless you, and hold you close to His heart.

    Reba’s Ranch House Director Marilyn Bice

    Watching the Winds of Change

    As a boy growing up during the Great Depression, Bill Wilcox witnessed his mother open their door to people in distress. Sometimes she hired a passing worker for chores or gave them a meal. Bill learned that the winds of hard times would blow, but trouble ultimately passed. That was the analogy he shared with staff when he oversaw the construction of Reba’s Ranch House in 1992, donating two weathervanes to sit above the guest rooms.

    Born in McKinney, Texas, in 1919, Bill was the youngest of eight children. His parents named him Wilson Edison Wilcox after the president who had taken them through the First World War and after an inventor. Setting type at his father’s newspaper, the Sherman Democrat, Bill developed a love for news and communications that lasted throughout his life.

    After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served onboard an escort carrier in the South Pacific Theatre as a communications officer until 1945. When he returned from the war, Bill purchased a radio station. He liked to keep abreast of current affairs and to always know from which way the winds were blowing.

    After raising a family and his first wife passing in his early retirement years, Bill turned toward more service work in his community, modeling his mother’s example of reaching out to those in distress. One of his guiding principles was, “all we will ever have is what we give to others.”

    Bill was engaged with his church and in numerous civic efforts, and was passionately dedicated to improving Texoma’s healthcare community. When the process began to raise funds for Reba’s Ranch House, he joined the effort. Bill oversaw the construction and added a special touch to the building: two weathervanes.

    “He was a realistic optimist,” says his son, David Wilcox. “He saw quite a lot of history unfold in front of him. He knew things might get stormy, but eventually settle down.”

    Bill made provisions to continue supporting Reba’s Ranch House with contributions left in his will.

    “He felt like Reba’s Ranch House was a critical component of support for families,” David says. “He understood the need for Reba’s Ranch House, that families coming from rural Oklahoma or Texas to the hospital needed a place to stay for a while.”

    When the new ranch house was built in 2010, Bill’s weathervanes were placed over the new guest wing as a reminder to families that the winds of change eventually shift, and difficult times will indeed pass.

    See the tribute to Bill Wilcox in the THF Annual Report

    See our video version of the Texoma Health Foundation 2020 Annual Report, including a tribute to Bill Wilcox.

    Looking for a creative holiday gift idea?

    If you are looking for a gift for someone who already has most of what they need, consider making a donation on their behalf to Reba’s Ranch House. It’s thoughtful, creative and it goes to a great cause. And now it’s so easy! We have streamlined our donation process, making it easier for you to quickly make a donation by credit card to Reba’s Ranch House.



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  10. Creative Holiday Gift

    “I have the most wonderful fans and I’m always so touched by gifts that people send, but what would truly touch my heart is to see that someone chose to make a donation to Reba’s Ranch House.”

    Reba McEntire

    Let Reba help you become a last-minute holiday hero

    Looking for a creative, last-minute holiday gift? You can honor a friend, a loved one or a client by designating a donation to Reba’s Ranch House in their honor. Donating is fast, easy, and you pay online with a credit card. You can make a donation on behalf of yourself or your company, or you can easily designate an honoree in the online form and Reba’s Ranch House will notify them that a donation has been made in their name.

    What is Reba’s Ranch House?

    The ranch house is located in North Texas and is open to anyone who needs a place to stay while they have a loved one in one of the area hospitals. Reba’s Ranch House helps care for the caregivers. Every donation is noticed, appreciated, and put to good use for others.

    Hear it from Reba

    Reba’s Ranch House is Reba McEntire’s only named charitable organization. Watch the video to hear her talk about how this charity helps others, and what it means to her. You can make a donation with the form on this page.

    Complete the form to make a donation