Above: Ron Malone. Photograph by Allison Pharmkis.
LESS THAN TWO MILES from downtown Roswell, Assurance Home overflows with the sound of 15 teenagers home from school. Pots clang, homework papers rustle, and the thump of a basketball game drifts through the old adobe farmhouse. It sounds like family. But these children are related by circumstance, not biology.
“Abused, neglected, mistreated, or abandoned—these children have had really bad lives,” says Executive Director Ron Malone. For 40 years, he and his staff have provided a safe, stable, home-like environment where children can learn to believe in themselves.
After Malone graduated from Eastern New Mexico University in 1973, his first job was with the Chaves County Boys Home. There, he developed an appreciation for residential programs. “You have such a huge impact on kids’ lives when you see them every day,” he says.
But the Boys Home soon closed, and Malone dreamed of starting another residential program in Roswell. He and members of the community formed a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk children. They targeted teenagers because resources were already available for younger kids. In 1979, the doors of Assurance Home opened in the old airport terminal at the former Walker Air Force Base.
The campus now includes the main house, a small chapel, a library, and a therapy clinic on 17 acres of land. Original art—created by the children as well as famous artists—adorns the walls.
An essential part of healing is therapy. Clinical staff work with the children one-on-one and in group settings to help them process their traumas, learn how to deal with their emotions, and develop good relationships.
During the school year, the teens are kept busy with school, chores, and homework. In the summer, they often work for nonprofits in the community, mastering job skills, social skills, and money management. “They learn that they can take care of themselves,” says Malone. “They think, I can do this. You’d think that working with mistreated children would be a depressing job. But when I watch the kids make progress in their lives, and I see all the people who want to help and do things for us, I feel really optimistic and good about the world.”
The program has also drawn national acclaim for how it changes lives. “Sometimes the staff tells you that they love you,” says Frank, a former resident. “It just gives you goosebumps when they tell you that. You feel like you can conquer the world.” Ron Malone believes they can.
HOW TO HELP
Assurance Home’s endowment fund—the Jack Alva Smith Heritage Society—accepts monetary donations, but Ron Malone says that it’s also important that the children know what it feels like to be treated kindly. What act of kindness can you offer?
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