Ron and Shirley Hankel’s faith inspires them to financially support the Ranch—where they are helping to share Christ’s love and forgiveness with kids at the Ranch.
Ron Hankel learned about Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch when he was in high school in the early 1950’s. The youth director at his church was a former youth care worker at the Ranch. He talked about the kids being served through this brand-new ministry of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), which was then called Dakota Boys Ranch. They also prayed for boys at the Ranch during their Bible studies and youth group activities.
As a member of an LCMS congregation, Ron learned more about the Ranch throughout the years, and in 1987, he made his first cash gift to the Fargo Youth Home. Since then, Ron has supported the kids at the Ranch in a variety of ways.
Ron and his wife, Shirley’s, most recent gift was a transfer of appreciated stocks to the Ranch. While their motivation for giving is always the kids, Ron said in addition to receiving a tax deduction for the donation, transferring shares allows them to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the appreciated stock.
Ron and Shirley agree that they give because they have been blessed.
“I realize what God has given to us,” Ron said. “You can share it, or you can hoard it. We share it because everything we have has come from God. I believe we are all to share our blessings with others.”
Ron and Shirley were both married before, with families of their own. In 1998, Ron’s spouse passed away, and in 1999, Shirley lost her husband. They both lived in LaMoure, ND, and knew of each other, but neither of them were interested in dating for several years after their spouses’ deaths.
Eventually, they started spending time together, and in 2004, they were married.
At that time, Shirley joined Ron’s church, Trinity Lutheran Church, an LCMS congregation in LaMoure, ND. It was there, and through Ron, that Shirley learned about the Ranch. Church has always been an important part of Ron and Shirley’s lives.
Shirley feels very blessed to have grown up in a loving, church-going family. “I don’t know what people do without faith, without believing in God,” she said. “He is the one who helps us and sees us through. He strengthens us daily. When you think about people and children not believing in God, and trusting Him with their lives, it’s very sad to me.”
Through their gifts to the Ranch Spiritual Life Program, Ron and Shirley help introduce children—who don’t have the benefit of that same Christian background—to Christ’s love and forgiveness.
“Kids here get a taste of what’s right,” Ron said. “Faith is a big part of healing for a lot of the kids at the Ranch.”
Because faith is such an important part of their lives, much of their recent gift went to support the Ranch’s Spiritual Life Program. Another portion of their gift helped plant a row of privacy trees on the Fargo campus, as well as purchase a 3-D printer to enhance S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) curriculum for Dakota Memorial School, the Ranch’s on-campus school. The remainder will be used to provide mirrors for the Wellness Room, which will help “enlarge” the space for children who are claustrophobic due to past trauma.
Ron and Shirley live a very full and busy life. They have a large yard to take care of, and both really enjoy taking care of their flowers. They attend a weekly Bible Study in addition to going to church on Sunday, and they have lots of family to visit (Ron has four children and Shirley has three. They each have eight grandchildren, and Ron will soon have three great grandchildren).
They also love to travel and have seen the world through many trips, cruises, and tours. One of their trip highlights was seeing the church in Germany where Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door.
At the end of each trip, Ron and Shirley come back to North Dakota feeling very blessed by their families, their home, their community, and their God. They encourage others to share their blessings, and they also encourage others to learn more about the Ranch.
“If people are curious about the Ranch, they should visit,” Ron said. “When we came last year for the Open House in Fargo, we were amazed at how everything is set up. We were able to see how the Ranch helps children who are struggling, how the Ranch gives children an opportunity to have a better life.