As a dental hygienist and chiropractor, respectively, starting a non-profit organization was not part of Aubrey and Bryan Schlackman’s original plan. But with a grandfather who opened one of the country’s largest church-based camps, something like it was bound to happen.
“I grew up in large-scale things like non-profit ministries, so it wasn’t a huge stretch in my mind to achieve something like this when I’ve seen it my whole life,” said Aubrey of Camp Blue Haven that Scotty Witt opened in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 1956.
Partially in his honor, they started Blue Haven Ranch last year in their Argyle home as a ministry to help single pregnant women with existing children. They provide support groups, counseling, aptitude testing, cooking, and life skills training. They also provide work education and support throughout pregnancy and up to 12 months after the baby is born so the moms can become self-sufficient again.
While the Schlackmans said other agencies provide for pregnant single women without kids or those with kids but not pregnant, none combine all in a long-term setting.
“This is an opportunity, and we’re only taking moms who want this opportunity,” Aubrey said. “I’m not dragging anybody through this. There’s a difference between people who want a handout and a hand up. They want to get out of their situation. And that’s what we’re targeting this ministry for — if you want a hand up, we’ll provide that help.”
The trigger for a full-blown maternity ranch came in January 2020 when she saw a property for sale in Bartonville on her way home from grocery shopping. She and her husband always wanted to own land and be self-sufficient with animals, and adding a hospitality aspect of helping single moms seemed a natural fit.
After Bryan agreed with her vision, they started to research what they needed to do to get started. They purchased their home with the intent of using it for a small ministry and never planned to create a full-blown non-profit organization.
“We never intended to be at a point where we would have needed donors to help,” Bryan said. “It was just going to be us. But that changed.”
The couple had two sons (now ages 4 and 18 months), and Aubrey recovered from a two-year battle with an auto-immune disease. They connected with the Women’s Non-Profit Alliance in Plano that helps women start non-profits, which the Schlackmans did in April 2020. Soon thereafter, they met someone who paid for four sessions with a non-profit business coach.
With $20,000 in initial donations, they began hosting a weekly support group where meals are cooked to take home and guidance is shared. They also currently are helping four women between ages 27-40 who are giving birth this year address financial gaps. These gaps include housing, utilities, and maternity leave from work. Fundraising continues to be able to help more women.
To move beyond donations, Blue Haven Ranch launched a hydroponic garden to grow vegetables and bought six chickens to produce eggs with the goal of adding nine more.
Their ultimate goal is to own a 50-100 acre working ranch somewhere in Denton County where mothers and their children can live and heal in peace far away from the busy demands of the city.
While that may be 2-3 years away, leasing land and buying cattle could happen by the end of the year.
They also are starting a grandparent mentoring program to provide additional adult support.
“Being able to have couples who are basically empty-nesters come in who want to love and dote on these families is one part of what will be a super healthy part of this program,” Aubrey said.
A primary goal is to support these pregnant moms.
“When they leave our program, hopefully, they have job training and community support,” Bryan said. “And they have supportive relationships. You are not supposed to do life alone. It takes a community.”
He added “We were encouraged to start where we could, and God has been faithful to provide for our new nonprofit so that we can provide for these families in this season of life. But our hope for the future is to provide the long-term housing and ranch property that will come alongside this community to make it the best possible environment for all the families that come to us in the future.”
photos courtesy of Blue Haven Ranch