The Youth Villa, originally known as the Girls Villa, was founded in 1970. Through the leadership of the Sunshine State Women's Chamber of Commerce, Florida's Sheriffs were urged to create a sister program to the Boys Ranch. The idea was to provide the same structure, opportunities and guidance for troubled girls from around the state.
A location was soon found at the Peace River Park in Polk County. Through the joint efforts of the City of Bartow and Polk County Commissioners, and with the approval of the Mobil Corporation, the Youth Ranches was granted a 99 year lease for the land at $1 per year. In April 1971, construction began on the second residential child care facility of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches.
The first girls moved to the campus in 1972. With continued improvements, the Youth Villa has grown to include additional cottages, pastures for horseback riding, a barn, activity building, administration building, chapel and boat dock. Today, the Youth Villa campus has the capacity to serve 46 troubled youngsters. These youth are given the opportunity to become productive, law abiding members of the community.
Thousands of youth and their families have received help from the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches since 1957. Thanks to the generosity and support of so many of our friends, we are able to continue to meet the growing needs of the children today.
"As I have moved into my full time position here at YFC, I have been in the process of developing several new ministries. I oversee all ministry at the Florida Sheriff's Youth Villa. Most of the girls are required to attend Sunday morning church services as part of their program with the exception of the foster care girls (girls who are wards of the state). Although these girls were always welcome and invited to come to Youth for Christ programs, none of them were very interested. For over a year, I tried to build relationships with these girls and was never able to break down the wall with them. As time passed, God made it so clear that we were going to have to go to them and have a program inside their home instead of expecting them to come to us (pretty sure this was Jesus' method anyway). These are teen girls who have been through horrific circumstances and have endured situations such as abuse and abandonment. Many of them have grown up in foster care and all of them are without their parents. Needless to say, they are very tough girls who have a lot of walls up. Our very first group with them was held the beginning of May. Here's what one of the girls wrote during journal time: 'Something you don't know about me ... well, where to start? There are many things. I've been abused, raped, and this is my fourth time in foster care. Something important is I'm supposed to be a twin. My real dad (I've never met him) abused my mom and my twin died ...' This girl, along with several others have come to know Jesus over the course of these few short months. They understand that He is a 'father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).' Even though their earthly parents have hurt them so much, they now have a Heavenly Father who loves them unconditionally. Thank you so much for being a blessing to these girls. I certainly would not have opportunities like these if it weren't for your continual financial support."
Following His Lead, Chelsie Coleman