Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch opens girls home

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Jerry and Fern Hill speaking to young women at the ranch named in honor of their son. The home will now house girls for the first time.
COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Jerry and Fern Hill speaking to young women at the ranch named in honor of their son. The ranch will now house girls for the first time.

More than 30 years after launching a program to house abused, neglected or otherwise troubled boys, Riverhead’s Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch opened its first home for girls Monday.

“From the very beginning we had hoped to have girls, but when we opened it was boys that we had and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do, to have the boys and girls on the same campus,” said Fern Hill, who founded the ranch with her husband, Jerry Hill, in 1980. “Through the years we’ve tried several different things and this one just kind of came to us.”

Located near Sound Avenue in Riverhead, the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home is part of Timothy Hill’s new “Refine” program, which provides independent-style housing for young women between the ages of 17 and 21, said Kris Mannale, the house’s caretaker. Mr. Mannale lives in the house with his wife, Hannah, who is also a caretaker, and their 2-year-old daughter.

Yesterday two young women, ages 18 and 20, moved into the house, which the organization currently refers to as the “Sound Avenue Home,” Mr. Mannale said. Another young woman is expected to move in sometime next week.

“There’s been a need for a girls’ home for a long time and there definitely is a need for it right now,” Ms. Hill said.

Built in 1925, the former private residence was purchased in June and is surrounded by trees that appear to hide it from view. The bedrooms are designed to be shared and can accommodate up to four girls, Mr. Mannale said.

Similar to Timothy Hill’s independent living program for boys, girls at the Sound Avenue House are required to get a job, either on-campus or off, and must meet certain schooling requirements, Mr. Mannale said. They are permitted to have a car.

“I don’t know of any other girls’ programs being run the same way,” Mr. Mannale said. “I think when you look at the other independent living programs we have, the success rate is pretty phenomenal. When they leave, they’re people of character and able to hold down a job. They’ve been given vocational training and résumé building. It’s not just housing.”

Mr. Mannale said the young women at the Sound Avenue House are adjusting well to their new home.

“They’re great,” he said. “We love having them.”

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