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BEATING ODDS: It isn’t a quick fix, but the people who work and volunteer at one Madison County Ranch, say it works.

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Every day there are dozens of kids at the Grubb YMCA – before school, after school, during the summer – and the situation is chaos.  Cordell Jordan is trying to control it, which is ironic considering the fact that years ago Cordell was one chaotic kid.  “I was a little beast,” he says, laughing.

Cordell’s home - was the Homes of Oakridge, a Des Moines community with low incomes, low education and high crime rates.  “I used to always get into fights.  I was doing a lot of vandalism, bustin’ windows and just up to no good.”  He was eight years old and most of the men in his family were in prison.  Chances were slim that Cordell would ever change.  He needed someone to believe that he could.

Matt Moeckl was that person.  As program director at Wildwood Hills Ranch, in Madison County he sees the hurt firsthand and tries to heal it.  “It’s keeping kids out of prison and off welfare,” he says about the ranch.  It offers kids peace and quiet, and most importantly – a safe place.  Most of them have never experienced anything like it.  Many have never been in the country or seen horses in person.  “They’re learning to be more responsible, more respectful of animals and others and also - more caring.”

Volunteers are a key part of what happens at the ranch.  The animals brought Karri Buddenhagen here five years ago.  She stopped to trade a horse and never really left.

Two of her daughters became volunteers … then she did.  Another daughter is a camper.  “As her family we love her, we do our best,” Karri says through tears, “but to know I have a place where I can send her where other folks will love and nurture and care and encourage her is huge.”

It took years for the message to sink in for Cordell – when it did; it was like it grabbed him by the reins. “I was suddenly thinking about what my future was going to look like if I kept doing what I’m doing now,” he explains, “I’ll end up in prison, locked up…”  And Matt Moeckl is proud that hasn’t happened.  “Cordell has already saved the state $120-thousand… statistically he should’ve been incarcerated for the past three years.”  Matt’s known Cordell since he was twelve years old.  “We see some of our best results and biggest gains by making that long term commitment.”

People can change.  The once chaotic kid is now a successful young man.  “I was number one to graduate in my family,” Cordell says with a huge smile, “I was so excited and my mom started crying.”  She’s not the only one.  “It’s a big deal and I’m proud of him,” Matt says – getting choked up, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

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