April 15, 2015
School soon will be in session at Infinity Acres Ranch.
On Saturday, Infinity Acres, which is at 136 Joppa Road in Ridgeway, will hold an open house and a ribbon-cutting for a new one-room schoolhouse at the ranch.
“We have constructed it to have that old-fashioned schoolhouse look,” said Laura Steere, who co-owns the ranch with her husband, Rick.
“The classroom will be sort of a community center,” she said, “where we can hold programs for our people with disabilities, we can hold programs for our 4-H kids and we can hold programs for other organizations, like the museum or Boys and Girls Club. It will be a year-round facility.”
Infinity Acres is a nonprofit ranch that features a menagerie of llamas, alpacas, goats, Flemish Giant rabbits, foxes, sugar gliders and many other animals. It offers tours and activities for children and people with special needs.
The open house will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and last until 4 p.m., and the ribbon cutting will take place at noon. The event will feature hands-on activities, games, craft vendors, live music, information booths — and of course, the ranch’s animals on display. The event is free and open to the public.
The Steeres broke ground on the new one-room schoolhouse in September thanks to grants from The Harvest Foundation and Martinsville Area Community Foundation. Infinity Acres also received a grant from Americorps that paid for a work crew to put up a perimeter fence around the ranch.
The rest, Rick Steere said, has come from donations — and a generous portion of blood, sweat and tears.
“This was built with a lot of love, a lot of work, and gratefully, a lot of community support and donations,” Laura Steere said. “Thank goodness for that.”
Laura Steere estimated the cost of the project at about $45,000, including the grants, numerous donations and volunteer hours.
In addition to serving as a home for Infinity Acres’ ENABLE (Enriching Nurturing Animal-Based Learning Experiences) program for people with special needs, the Steeres have many goals for the building. Laura Steere said she hopes it can be used for teaching classes on fiber-processing, spinning, weaving and other old-fashioned arts and crafts.
“It will also be available for organizations or clubs or businesses that want to have meetings out here ... to have an opportunity to combine a meeting with a fun activity like seeing the animals,” she said.
The idea of building a one-room schoolhouse at the site, Laura Steere said, was her husband’s, and it’s designed to evoke the one-room schoolhouses of yore: It will feature a bell out front, a cupola on the roof, an iconic red-and-white color scheme and a (non-functional) potbelly stove inside.
However, it also will feature modern amenities, such as a wheelchair-accessible workshop, a big screen and projector for movies, a wash station, and a picnic bench on the patio.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the way it’s come together,” Laura Steere said.
The Steeres are awaiting official state approval to operate as a day service, Laura Steere said, and once that happens, people with disabilities would be able to join the ENABLE program and bill the service to Medicaid.
“Once we get licensed as a day service program, people with disabilities can attend at no cost,” she said. “We’re starting our waiting list and giving out the enrollment papers so that we’ve got people ready to start as soon as we’ve got the green light.”
There are other programs in the area that cater to people with special needs, Laura Steere said, such as Edwards Adult Day Center, Stepping Stones, Piedmont Community Services and MARC Workshop, and she looks forward to working with those agencies, not competing with them.
“They are fantastic, and I see us working hand-in-hand with them,” she said. “There’s enough need in the community for us all to work together. ... I see a lot of strength in partnerships.”
In a similar vein, Laura Steere said, Infinity Acres always is in need of volunteers to help out at the ranch.
“We love our volunteers,” she said. “They have done so much to help us bring this together. We have a need for every type of volunteer, no matter what their skill is.”
“This isn’t just two people doing something,” she added. “This has blossomed.”
Infinity Acres held an open house last year, Laura Steere said, and about 400 people attended.
“This year,” she said, “we’re hoping for many more.”
Any organizations or clubs that wish to have a free space to display their information at the event may contact Laura Steere at 358-2378. Those who wish to volunteer at the ranch or donate to the organization also may contact Steere at that number.
For more information, visit www.infinityacres.org.
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