Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16:21

Farming community continues support for Rock Solid Refuge

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A collective effort and the use of seven combines made it possible to harvest a lentil crop within a few hours for the Rock Solid Refuge Land for Land fundraiser on a farm south of Swift Current, Aug. 31. A collective effort and the use of seven combines made it possible to harvest a lentil crop within a few hours for the Rock Solid Refuge Land for Land fundraiser on a farm south of Swift Current, Aug. 31.

Farmers and agribusiness in the Swift Current area provided support for another year to plant and harvest a crop for the Rock Solid Refuge Land for Land fundraiser.

Seven combines crisscrossed the land of Wendell Patzer on Aug. 31 to harvest a lentil crop while trucks stood ready to transport the crop to an elevator.
This was the fourth year that the crop fundraiser took place. Rock Solid Refuge Executive Director Dallas Block said it has become an important part of their annual fundraising efforts.
“We're probably averaging around $40,000 a year,” he mentioned. “So without this year, we're already at about $120,000 that's been raised. … This project raises as much or more than any other single fundraiser that we do.”
Individuals can also support the crop fundraiser by sponsoring an acre for $150 to help pay some of the project expenses.
“There are always expenses that are not covered, like the land rent and seed this year,” he said. “We bought seed, and some of the chemical isn't donated. So there are always expenses that need to be covered. This year we put it out there, would you be willing to sponsor an acre for $150 and help us pay for the expenses of this project. We had some donations in regards to that, but not all of our expenses were covered with that.”
Rock Solid Refuge was founded as a non-profit Christian charity in 2005. It offers a 12-month residential program for teenage boys between the ages of 13 and 18 who are struggling with life controlling issues. It is located on a 60 acre property northeast of Shaunavon. The money from the crop fundraiser is helping the organization to cover various expenses.
“The funds had been used primarily for capital projects and paying down some debt, but taking care of capital projects primarily,” he said. “So upgrades, new projects, different things like that.”
Recent projects at Rock Solid Refuge include moving a double wide staff house on site and setting up a 100-foot booster tower to improve cellular coverage.
“We don't have very good cellular coverage on our yard without it,” he said. “So those are two projects actually that this money goes to cover as well.”
According to Patzer about 118 acres of land was used for the project. He estimated a yield of about 21 bushels per acre, which is below expectations.
“There were enough plants for a 40 bushel crop, that's what we hoped for, but lentils like to have stress and they don't really like to be wet like this year,” he said. “They didn't pod as much as they should have ordinarily. … It was kind of a disappointing yield, but all things considered, it was good.”
The monetary value of this year’s crop will depend on the grading of the lentils, with a top grade resulting in a price of about $24 a bushel.
This was the first time that lentils were seeded for this project. Previous crops were durum in the first year, then peas, and durum again last year.
“We were going to look at canola or barley for this year, but the price that you could contract lentils for – you could lock in lentils for 42 cents – is historically ridiculously high. So we just felt we should do that just to raise more money. It still will be good.”
There are currently nine students at Rock Solid Refuge, which is close to the average number of participating students.
“We want our average to be 11 or 12, which we have had,” Block said. “Even earlier this year we had 11 for a bit. So nine is a good number, but we want a few more than that even.”
The facility has a staff of 20 people and the annual budget is about $900,000. Most of the funds to support the program must be raised through various initiatives.
“We are super excited about the program that we have,” he said. “We've got great staff. We just need to keep bringing funds to support the program. … There is some tuition that the students' families pay and we do get a little bit of help from Sask Education because we are a fully qualified, independent school.”
The residential program assists participants to regain a new focus on life. The four key areas of the program are faith and discipleship, mentorship, education and life skills.
“We all know that life is a journey for our whole lives,” he said. “This is like a new starting point that needs to be continued outside of the program. That's the philosophy that we have. So we definitely know that we make a difference in their lives, but we also know that there's a follow through after the program that has to be taken on by them and their families.”
Rock Solid Refuge aims to assist program participants and their families for the journey ahead through an annual four-day family camp in August at Camp Elim, which is located at Lac Pelletier.
“We do workshops and seminars with the parents and students, and try to move things forward for the entire family,” he said. “That is an aspect of our program that we're continuing to develop, working directly with the parents and the families. It's not fully developed yet, but that is an aspect where the families would come to our centre several times a year for us to do more workshops and seminars with them.”
The crop fundraiser has helped to increase awareness about Rock Solid Refuge in southwest Saskatchewan, but Block felt there is still more work to be done in that regard.
“We're always hoping to raise more awareness,” he said. “We know that there's pockets of people that know about us and even know about us really well, but we keep running into people that have never heard of us. So we need as much exposure as possible so that people realize that there is a program available to work with guys with life controlling issues.”

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Matthew Liebenberg