From the Titus Ranch fall 2014 newsletter:
“Dear family & friends,
I am so excited to walk out what I have dreamed for so long! The comment I hear from people over and over as I share the vision for mentoring is ‘this is perfect timing’. It’s perfect timing because it is God’s timing! I will share updates as we move along.
I have some very exciting news to share! It’s so interesting I just have to share the whole story. You know the passion of my heart has been to start a ministry for at risk kids for a very long time. It all began about 18 years ago while teaching 3rd grade at Norman Park Elementary School. I have always leaned toward at-risk children and every year had a couple of children who tugged at my heartstrings. I distinctly remember kneeling at the altar at Weeks Chapel United Methodist Church one day with a heavy heart concerning some of my students. I prayed that day if I couldn’t do anything else for those children for God to just help me love them. Well, that burden became a passion!!!
I began to feel God was showing me how to love them in a way that was far more than I had ever dreamed. I began talking to people about how to begin a ministry and learned the first thing you had to do was to incorporate a business. I hired an attorney and with fear and trembling incorporated as Titus Ranch. I was scared to death! I did not know what I was doing and I was driving everyone around me crazy. It is all I talked about! I knew the need was great and the desire was so strong! I did a lot of talking but it seemed as if something was always happening to keep me from doing what I really wanted to do. I did do some mentoring during the summers and poured into my students like crazy! During those 17 years I was teaching full time, my youngest sons Ashley and Hunter were still at home, and Eric started college. My mother fell and broke her hip in 2003. For the next six years my life pretty much centered around her. I remember her saying, “Susan, I just don’t know how you can do this until your boys are grown.” I didn’t agree (of course), but like so many other words of wisdom she shared, I know now she was right! I finally stopped talking about Titus Ranch all the time but every year when it came time to renew the corporation I would pray and I would renew. I renewed it for 16 years without seeing anything actually happen. I just had a passion inside of me that would not go away.
I retired completely from teaching in Aug. 2012 and I knew what I planned to do, but I wasn’t saying it out loud! In December of that year a special friend, Nancy Grantham, helped me in filing for the 501c3 status for Titus Ranch. They told us at the IRS that it would probably be rejected because I had failed to return a form during the time I was living with my mother, but not to be discouraged. All I had to do was submit the application again and they would review it. It is a very lengthy application. Sure enough, in May I received the rejection letter. I had just found out I had to have surgery on my right shoulder in June. I stuck the letter in the filing cabinet and closed the drawer. Time rocked on and my husband, David, had heart surgery in October. I had an MRI done of my left shoulder in November and had to have surgery in December. This was all in 2013!
When it came time to renew the corporation I said “this is not meant to be” and I did not renew. I had been talking with a friend, Amber Schwalls, about an organization called The Forgotten Initiative and the possibility of coordinating their mentoring project. The mission of TFI is to bring joy and purpose to the foster care community. One of the ways they do this is by providing mentors for foster children. I was to meet with the committee for the first time on Friday May 2nd, 2014. I got the mail out of my mailbox on Thursday May 1st and had a letter from the IRS and thought “Oh no…what now?” (I’m sure you have never done that!) It was an acceptance letter granting the 501c3!!! I never resubmitted the application! They had reviewed the application and had granted the 501c3 status. Titus Ranch was a tax deductible nonprofit. I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough to renew the corporation!!!
I met with TFI the next day and shared my story. After several meetings with them, we decided I should follow my dream and vision for Titus Ranch and partner with them on the mentoring project. Our purpose is very similar. The Forgotten Initiative focuses on the needs of foster children and their families while Titus Ranch focuses on any child that needs or wants a mentor. Mentoring is the same no matter. Our goal is to train and support churches in developing safe, effective, and sustainable mentoring ministries for youth and their families. Kristin and Stephen Adcock, Tommie Beth Willis, and myself attended a Christian Association of Youth Mentoring core training in St. Petersburg, Florida in October. It was a two day workshop that was extremely informative. We plan to share that training with churches in Colquitt County and begin developing these ministries. We will be training and equipping mentors in relational mentoring. “Mentoring brings the hope God placed in us to a person in need. As mentors we bring Jesus into the relationship by living out the gospel in our daily lives. Paul said “…we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well…” It is simply building a friendship, a role every follower of Jesus is capable of fulfilling. We need not be a preacher, a counselor, or a professional of any kind. We need to be faithful to God and a faithful friend to someone in need. (Christian Association of Youth Mentoring).