Timothy Hill Ranch turns 30

11/16/2010 8:33 PM |

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Kevin Hancock, second from left, celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Timothy Hill Children's Ranch in Riverhead Monday with Ranch founders, from left, Jerry and Fern Hill, and executive director Thud Hill. Mr. Hancock, who lived at the Ranch at one time, said he might have become a gang member if it were not for the Ranch.

Kevin Hancock was a troubled teenager when the state sent him to live at Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead.

“I had a wonderful household, but when you have two parents that have to work every day, the streets raise you,” Mr. Hancock recalled Monday at a small 30th anniversary luncheon at the Middle Road ranch.

“I loved it,” he said of his experience in Riverhead.

Having been raised in Brooklyn and Roosevelt, he’d never seen animals or worked on a farm, as he did at the ranch. And while attending Riverhead schools, he became involved in sports, which he said he’d never done before. He excelled at football and wrestling. “If it wasn’t for the ranch, there’s no telling what I’d be doing,” Mr. Hancock said. “I could be in a gang or something.”

He’s not alone. Over the last three decades, some 700 kids have since called the shelter home, according to Thaddaeus “Thud” Hill, brother of Timothy Hill and now the organization’s executive director.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Jerry Hill, who co-founded the ranch in 1980 with his wife Fern to honor the memory of their son. “When we first started, we had a big dream. We didn’t know how much work was going to be involved in it. If I had known how difficult it was going to be, I might have been too discouraged to even start.”

So who was Timothy Hill? When he was just 12, Timothy Hill was on the phone with real estate agents looking for land on which to build his dream, a ranch where troubled youth could live, feel safe and work on a farm. “He knew the price of land in different parts of the country,” said his father, Jerry. “He read books on it. He did research in the library and he called near every real estate agent he could think of.”

Timothy died in 1972 at the age of 13, when he was hit by a car while riding his bike to school, but his parents, Jerry and Fern Hill, carried out his dream. And now, it was announced on Monday, they are looking to expand. Thud Hill said the ranch, which currently houses only boys, is looking for about 10 acres for a separate ranch for girls.

Timothy Hill Ranch is licensed by the state and houses boys who are troubled, abused or neglected or come from troubled families. Most of them stay at the ranch for about a year to 18 months, though some have stayed as long as six years, Thud Hill said. He added that in recent years, the goal has shifted from treating just the child to aiding both the child and his family.

“For a long time, it was kind of a philosophy where you’re supposed to just fix the kid,” he said. “That philosophy has changed and people said, ‘He didn’t get this way by himself and we should do something about the parents, too.’ ”

“One of goals is to reunite the families and not just to warehouse the kids,” said Cliff Clark, vice president of the ranch’s board. “We provide counseling for the family and the child to get them back into a safe family environment.”
Often the family will go beyond what services are provided at the ranch.

As for Mr. Hancock, after his time at the ranch was up, he began getting into trouble again. He called Thud Hill, who actually agreed to let Mr. Hancock live with his family.

“He took me into his home,” Mr. Hancock said, noting that he then got his life straightened out, went to a small college in West Virginia, got married and had kids himself. He has since moved back to Riverhead, where he works at PC Richard & Sons.

Mr. Clark said other former residents first came to the ranch because they were getting into trouble — like Tobias Brown, who later excelled at football at Riverhead High School and got a football scholarship to a Division II college.

Mr. Brown has also returned to Riverhead and is now a director at the ranch, Mr. Clark said.

[email protected]

The Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch property was previously owned by a group of 15 investors who bought it thinking that the Long Island Expressway would be extended through that area and on to the North Fork. But when the LIE extension was stopped, the group defaulted on a loan, according to Hill family members.
Friends of the Hill family in Tennessee then signed the note to help Timothy’s dad, Jerry, purchase the land. Jerry Hill then went to Manhattan to meet with a vice president at Chemical Bank, which agreed to sell him the land for what was owed on it. The Hills bought the 106-acre property for a little over $200,000, and were able to pay if off in about three years.
Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1976, the land was purchased in 1978 and in 1980, it opened its doors. About 40 acres were  later sold to an adjacent golf course. The ranch now operates on about 70 acres.
Source: Hill family members.



49 Comment

  • Just the other day I was thinking… “What do we need on Long Island?” And then it hit me: More Shopping Centers!

    Clearly, there aren’t enough shopping centers. And hardly any abandoned stores, sometimes only one or two per strip mall.

    And those 287 illegal immigrant construction jobs and 354 mimimum wage cashier jobs are exactly what’s needed to turn the economy around.

    This project is a great idea. So much better than some stupid trees and having habitat for woodland creatures.

  • The property is already zoned for light industrial. Would you prefer a bus terminal there? Trees & habitat for woodland creatures is not part of the zoning. Would you like to buy it & preserve it as the new owner? Do your homework!

  • Residents of Mt sinai have been looking for tax relief; this is a good begining, The school district was concidering lay-offs, How many teachers jobs and services would the 700 plus thousand save.

  • With the current economic conditions this is good news, people will be able to work in the building of the Village Center as well as in these new stores. The Tax revenue generated from the stores benefit the schools in Mount Sinai as well as the general tax base. Port Jefferson has their own revenue with the shops downtown as well as uptown, now Mount Sinai will have additional money from these stores. This is a well needed addition to our community.

  • The proposed Mount Sinai Village Centre is a much needed project for our community. I have attended manyof the civic meetiings throughout the process as well as this week’s presentation and am impressed with the professionalism and overall commitment to the needs and wants of the community by the developer. A project of this type would be an asset to the area and local economy in many ways. It would create opportunities for employment and the tax dollars generated couldn’t come at a better time. We could use a New England style “face lift” along the Mount Sinai corridor.

  • This sounds like a move in the right direction. I think a project like this would benefit the community in many ways. There is a need for creating jobs that this kind of project would generate. It would be a terrific beautification project to the local community. I look forward to seeing the project through.

  • Honestly the amount of money we pay in taxes it’s a sin we don’t have a Mount Sinai library and we have to share with Comsewogue and Pt. Jeff. They should really have a library constructed there …would help the students that are right across from the development in our schools….add programs for our youth and residents to attend and cause less traffic than the proposed construction.