J Bar J Youth Services, an organization made up of multiple agencies to help at-risk youth, hosted a grand opening celebration of its latest endeavor: a vocational school on the property that houses the Boys Ranch, a residential facility that is home to adjudicated youth coming out of the juvenile justice system.
“J Bar J, for years, has been teaching kids about their choices, and how their choices affect them,” said Don Smith, a longtime construction industry pro who has served as the key player in getting many local companies and their owners behind this project. “This facility will give them the chances to make good choices, and for jobs through the vocational program. We are taking positive choices and turning them into chances for employment,” he said. “This place is pretty special. It’s going to take kids who’ve made bad choices and paid the price and give them a lot of opportunities to learn trades that they can follow through with.”
Smith, who formerly served on the J Bar J Board of Directors, heard about the plan to create a vocational school on the Boys Ranch property, and offered his services. He has since rejoined the J Bar J Board, and his efforts launched what became a community labor of love in getting the facility — which cost $750,000 — built. Smith said all of it was donated in one way another, from one large grant and monetary gifts to in-kind donations. “I want to thank all the donors who gave money out of their pockets to give these kids a chance,” he said.
Donors participating in the project contributed in many ways, Smith said, from offering excavating, engineering, roofing and office assistance to providing supplies for the school. As an example, Smith said Les Schwab donated a tire-changing machine so the boys can learn how to change out tires and then get jobs doing so. More than 30 businesses and organizations donated services, time and other assistance, including builder Cornerstone Construction, Froelich Engineers, BBT Architects, Greater Bend Rotary, which donated $75,000 and the Bend Foundation, which donated $50,000. (For a complete listing of community partners who donated, visit the J Bar J website at jbarj.org/events-and-news/vocational-school.)