Sheriffs' Youth Homes aim to help at-risk youngsters

CONYERS -- Terry Norris, a Conyers resident and executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, said Thursday that space is available at youth group homes sponsored by the Sheriff's Association for children who are abused, abandoned or neglected.

Norris told members of the Rotary Club of Conyers that the youth homes, which started with the Sheriffs' Boys Ranch in Hahira in 1960, have contributed to the success of thousands of young people who were in difficult circumstances. Today there are five campuses scattered across the state -- Boys Ranch in Hahira, Cherokee Estate in Dalton, Pineland/Camp Pioneer in LaGrange, Herrington Homestead near Swainsboro, and MountainView in Chatsworth.

Norris said the Georgia Sheriffs' Youth Homes have been made possible "through the leadership of sheriffs and the generosity of Georgians." The homes operate on an annual budget of $5 million.

He said children as young as grade school-age are offered a safe, secure environment that provides the structure needed to grow into successful adults. He said while some of the 70 children in the group homes are referred by the state, most come from private referrals and are not supported by state funding.

Residents of the youth homes attend public school in their communities, he said. Those who want to attend college or a technical school are encouraged to get scholarships or grants, and the Sheriffs' Association provides the rest.

"We treat these children just like we would all treat our own," Norris said.

He encouraged Rotary members to attend a Christmas party at one of the youth homes this year to get a feel for the warm, supportive environment provided to the residents.

"It makes you appreciate what you've got and that you can help somebody else," he said.

Norris also asked Rotary members to consider recommending the youth homes if they know of an at-risk child.

For more information on the Georgia Sheriffs' Youth Homes or to make a donation visit the website at http://www.georgiasheriffs.org.