Freedom Ranch for trafficking victims under construction in Brainerd
BRAINERD, Minn.--"Everything." That's what the construction of a Freedom Ranch near Brainerd means to Vicki Leckie, co-founder of the Rising Hope Foundation. "This is a really big day," Leckie said Thursday, July 26, as she watched a house raised...
That's what the construction of a Freedom Ranch near Brainerd means to Vicki Leckie, co-founder of the Rising Hope Foundation.
"This is a really big day," Leckie said Thursday, July 26, as she watched a house raised to make room for a new addition of dormitories to house human trafficking victims.
Rising Hope is a nonprofit organization Leckie and her husband, David, created in 2013 with the goal to help trafficking victims heal and get back into society.
As part of the organization, the Leckies developed the Freedom Ranch project, which will provide housing where girls rescued from the enslavement of human trafficking can begin healing with the help of counselors, educators and health care professionals in a safe environment.
With the help of an anonymous donation, the first Freedom Ranch is under construction southwest of Brainerd on County Highway 2. The donor requested the facility be built in Crow Wing County, and Leckie said she just happened to find this property online fitting the organization's needs. The property came with a house already standing that was raised up Thursday with the help of Leighton Straight, of Leighton Straight Housing Moving. A first floor of dormitories will then be built, creating space to house eight girls ages 12-17 years old for long-term recovery.
"It could be 18 months, it could be two years, it could be three years," Leckie said of how long residents may stay in the house. "It really depends upon how much trauma they've endured."
The next phase of the project is to construct the first-floor dormitories. Leckie said she hopes to have the space enclosed by this winter.
When the ranch gets up and running, Rising Hope will work with True North Ranch in Merrifield and Rae's Hope in Brainerd to bring equine therapy to the girls, which Leckie said has proven to be especially effective with trafficking victims.
A chicken coop made out of wood from an old barn that once stood on the property will be added to the ranch as well.
Rising Hope has its sights set on property in Bemidji and Park Rapids for two more Freedom Ranches in the future.
As lumber and other construction materials are still needed to finish the Brainerd ranch, anyone who wants to donate to the cause can purchase Menards gift cards and send them to: Rising Hope Foundation, P.O. Box 841, Park Rapids, MN, 56470. For more information on Rising Hope or the Freedom Ranch project, visit risinghopefoundation.org.