Local Clark County nonprofit for at-risk kids to celebrate 20 years

Savannah Vodnar holds one of the chickens that she and the other participants in the On-The-Rise program are raising on the organization's North Hampton farm Thursday, May 26, 2022. In the background are fellow participants Shane Baker, left, and Breydan Coberly. On-The-Rise is celebrating 20 years of helping at-risk kids in the Clark County area by giving them purpose and life skills to succeed. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Savannah Vodnar holds one of the chickens that she and the other participants in the On-The-Rise program are raising on the organization's North Hampton farm Thursday, May 26, 2022. In the background are fellow participants Shane Baker, left, and Breydan Coberly. On-The-Rise is celebrating 20 years of helping at-risk kids in the Clark County area by giving them purpose and life skills to succeed. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

A nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youth in Clark County is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

On-The-Rise works with young people who are deficient in life and social skills, struggle academically and have behavioral issues. The organization addresses those issues on a farm via multi-sensory programs that allows the youth to gain life, social and employment skills with the collaboration of many area resources.

The organization, located at 4177 Dialton Road in North Hampton, will host an anniversary program this month. Hundreds of former students are expected to attend. Deb McCullogh and her husband, Eddie, who own the farm, are excited about the milestone and the upcoming celebration.

“I can’t believe it. I’ll be crying the whole time,” Deb McCullogh said. “I’m the one who’s the lucky one. I have a great life, It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a great life.”

McCullogh and co-founder Kathy Tofstad got out of real estate 20 years ago to work with kids and help them with social, life and employment skills.

“We started this by always caring and sharing, working for a couple years before it came through,” she said. “Our biggest mission is to work with the youth and change behaviors, so young people can be successful in the community and wherever they’re at in life.”

The program is for youth ages 10 to 14 who are referred through agencies such as children services, juvenile court, therapists, counseling and schools. There is usually a waiting list, but sine COVID-19, it hasn’t been as long, McCullough said.

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Youth in the program work together — starting and finishing jobs — and learn to be responsible and respectful, McCullough said. She said everything is done mainly on the farm, but they do take summer field trips.

There are about 40 young people currently enrolled in the program. Five full-timers and many volunteers make up the staff.

“With smaller numbers we can work with the kids and know many details about them. We really get to know the kids up close and personal. We’ve grown attached to them and they to us, and we are close to their families as well,” McCullough said.

About 10 years ago, McCullough also developed a teens On-The-Rise program, which is a 10-week course for high schoolers who graduate out of the program. It’s not on the farm, but they go to businesses that help them discover what helps them be successful in life.

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The program’s anniversary celebration will be held at 4 p.m. June 18. The community, donors, families and anyone who participated in the the past 20 years are invited.

“The community has supported us and how we do things,” McCullough said. “This community is something else. We live in a great community and there’s so many people that help families, but in a different way. We’re really honored to be a part of the many organizations in Clark County.”

There will be food, music, a picture booth, an outdoor theater, a bonfire and more. McCullough said the board members also put everything on a disk or flash drive, such as pictures, 4-H books and ribbons.

“Everything will be a takeaway. We want all of them to take their memories,” she said.

If it wasn’t for the funders such as local foundations and people in the community, this program would not be possible, McCullough added.

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