Timothy Hill offering retreat facilities in other states


Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch is rebranding its organization to provide more than just camps and transitional care programs.

Since the ranch first opened on Middle Road in Riverhead nearly 36 years ago, more than 1,000 children who were homeless or abused have found homes and path toward recovery.

Timothy Hill expanded locally in 2013, adding a separate campus for girls near Sound Avenue. Now, it has expanded its operation even further by establishing a pair of retreat centers designed as vacation getaways for individuals, families, church groups and the like. The 97-acre Norwich Lake site in Huntington, Mass., officially changed its name Friday to The Retreat at Norwich Lake. Another site, purchased in April and located in Tennessee, is called The Retreat at Center Hill Lake. The Hill family, founders of the ranch, originally hails from Tennessee.

Until this year, the Norwich Lake site didn’t have sufficient capacity or accommodations to host more than a small group of summer camp children. On June 4, a grand opening was held there for a new six-suite lodge that serves as the retreat’s central meeting space.

According to, the lodge offers both large and small suites. The three large suites, which can accommodate up to six people, include a private bathroom, a kitchenette, a living area, a bedroom, a sleeping loft and a balcony with a lake view, The small suites feature private baths, sitting areas, queen-sized beds and balconies without a view of the lake.

The Retreat at Center Hill Lake in Tennessee covers 139 acres and has several lodges with similar accommodations.

The Massachusetts site, purchased in 2008, was originally run by the ranch as a seasonal summer camp for younger kids and teens.

Deborah Kneidl, director of advancement at Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, said the organization had been looking to expand its services there. But it wasn’t until a fire burned down the camp dining hall in January 2015 that they really began to rethink what they wanted to do with the Norwich Lake location, she said.

“We really wanted to make it a year-round facility,” she said.

They did exactly that. In place of the old dining hall, the group built the new lodge and began to expand services.

“Pretty much, Timothy Hill has two service lines.” Ms. Kneidl said. “Residential services for kids at risk and [now] retreat services.”

Residential services in Riverhead are provided to young men and women ages 12 to 25. They include foster children having trouble with placement or easing out of the system, the homeless and those for whom the ranch is an alternative to incarceration.

Residents who participate in Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch’s work readiness program helped build the new Massachusetts lodge. For a week at a time, Ms. Kneidl said, they were taken to the site, where they did hands-on work to learn different vocational skills, which they also work on at the Riverhead ranch.

“The integral part of Timothy Hill is to help develop these people that stay at the ranch by providing them with work readiness,” she said.

“Our retreat centers have a mission to be a place where people can come, relax and participate in activities,” Ms. Kneidl said.

The centers both offer a wide array of activities, such as horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. They also offer a water trampoline and bonfires. While the children are busy with activities, the retreats offer parents alone time that enables them to recharge.

“Families and groups can come the entire year to feel relaxed, fresh and renewed,” Ms. Kneidl said.