LARC Ranch – Los Angeles Residential Community Helping Developmentally Disabled People Thrive
You may have seen it off the side of the road if you’re driving down Bouquet Canyon Road. Nestled into the hills is LARC ranch, a 65-acre residential collective for developmentally disabled adults, founded in 1959.
Currently housing 103 residents in its 14 houses (including a HUD-funded home in Newhall) the Los Angeles Residential Community is a one-of-a-kind facility offering an adult development center, travel club, Special Olympics, fantasy football, volleyball, swimming, bowling and an Aktion (Kiwanis-sponsored) Club involving outreach projects like cleaning up graffiti and participation in the annual River Rally of Santa Clarita.
Many of the residents work in the community – for Goodwill, Magic Mountain and Ralph’s Market. Frances Roney has lived on the ranch for 45 years and worked in food services at Magic Mountain for 27 years. Roney’s favorite activity is the travel club. With the group, she’s been to Big Bear, San Diego, Hawaii, and a Fall cruise through Canada. Every year they take a trip across country. This Spring they are headed to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
“Here at LARC it’s the quality of care and the richness of activities and programs you don’t find in other group homes. Nothing falls through the cracks -there is a lot of oversight here,” said Kathy Sturkey, the ranch’s executive director. And with a staff of 74, the ratio of caregivers and executive employees to residents is excellent.
The consideration and dedication to individuals is apparent in Trina Lesko, Residential Administrator whose been at LARC Ranch at 31 years. She knows the resident’s histories and quirky stories alike.
Roney has known Lesko three decades and the two are quite close. Roney said she is looking forward to Fall when it gets cooler and continuing to go on trips with the club. Now contemplating retirement, she says she’d “like to be doing more, but I just can’t.” “Every disability limits you in some ways, you compensate and are stronger in others,” she added.
Karissa Ganih, 33, is planning to get married in two years. Her boyfriend, also a L.A.R.C resident, lives in the villa next to hers. Her parents are from Guam and before she moved to the ranch five years ago, she lived with her sister in Pasadena. Her favorite place in LA – Disneyland and her preferred activity – anything with her iPhone.
According to Lesko, finding love at LARC is not uncommon. Currently a husband and wife couple live in one of the homes and she’s overseen married residents in the past.
The medical department at L.A.R.C ranch includes a nurse on duty 24/7 and a doctor who visits weekly. Funding for individuals is through SSI and SSA as well as allocations from the state. Depending on the level of care, the cost to house a resident, including meals and activities is between $3,700-$3,900 a month. At full capacity, the Ranch can provide programs, care and housing for 109 people.
Chris Bratzel, Executive Officer at the ranch, says the clients here make the difference. “It’s like family,” she said, “the feeling sticks with you.” She started out at LARC 24 years ago assisting in the adult development center.
This year LARC has modernized its facility and is now equipped with several pods of solar panels. In addition, Sturkey is working with SCWD to install a pipeline on the ranch, replacing a dried up aquifer.
To help raise funds the Ranch put on their annual L.A.R.C Train of Love! This year they played music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s with DJ Bino Bates. Catch the fun next year and look for ads in The Magazine of Santa Clarita.
LARC Ranch is located at 29890 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus.
For more information go to www.larcfoundation.org or call 661-296-8636, ext. 219.
photos by Joie de Vivre photographie