LAKESIDE — Walking Down Ranch Inc., a non-profit corporation, dedicated to helping veterans has announced a White Mountains Veterans Tribute at the Show Low Airport on Labor Day Weekend. Attractions include an air show, food, a bar, live music, vendors, antique plane fly-ins, a motorcycle run and a drone competition. Proceeds benefit White Mountain Veterans and tickets are available at www.walkingdownranch.org. For more information, please send questions to walkingdownranch.@gmail.com or call (602) 689-8056. Volunteers and sponsors are welcome.
About Walking Down Ranch
WDR has been operating out of an old, converted resort in Lakeside since around December 2017. The site is now home to transitional housing units for veterans. The community is called Veterans Village and is designed for those who need a hand up, not a hand out, toward becoming productive and independent citizens again.
In November 2019, Executive Director Maggie Heath told the Independent that in that month, they had rehabilitated their 61st veteran in the mere 22 months that Veterans Village has been operating at the time. Not bad, she says, considering that she has only 18 cabins to work with. Residents don’t pay rent, but they work at least 20 hours per week. Jobs include restoring and maintaining the structures, digging water lines and pouring concrete. And for those not capable of heavy work, there are tasks such as raking pine needles and making signs. ”Everybody can do something,” Heath explains. “They take pride in it.”
Why the name? Heath explained that her very first veteran, a female, remarked that the veteran’s journey was “like walking down from combat to reality,” Heath recalled.
Heath takes in exclusively veterans who received a discharge from the service, as long as it wasn’t a dishonorable discharge. Alcohol and drugs are not allowed on the property. Each cabin is furnished and comes with linens, kitchen utensils, flatware and plates. In fact, once a resident gets on his or her feet, they can take the furnishings with them to their new life. This serves two purposes, says Heath. One, it incentivizes the residents to take care of the furnishings, and avoids a situation wherein a persons goes back out into the world, has a place to live, but lacks the basics to start again.
A big challenge, says Health, is getting past a veteran’s first instinct that it’s “unmanly” to ask for help, and to take a step back from that ego. “They don’t believe they deserve it,” she explained. But once a veteran has a “safe place to sleep and a full stomach, they do a 180-degree turn that turns a basic human need into having a goal,” she beamed.
Thus far, Walking Down Ranch has stayed afloat through proceeds from its thrift store, donations and fundraisers. Donations can be used as a tax credit for persons who pay Arizona state taxes. A tax credit is available up to $400 per person and $800 per couple or family. Maggie’s direct line is 602-689-8056. She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made through PayPal, Gofundme or Walkingdownranch.org. Volunteers are more than welcome, says Maggie, for everything from making deliveries to working in the thrift shop.