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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Golden Heart Ranch

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Autism, Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Epilepsy, Group Homes, Health, Human Services

Mission: Golden Heart Ranch® is dedicated to providing young adults with special needs the opportunity to reach their fullest potential and enjoy a dignified quality of life, by creating and building a “life-center” residential community where they can live, learn, work and create solid friendships in a harmonious and caring environment that is emotionally and physically safe.

Results: In five short years Golden Heart Ranch has become an organization instrumental in providing services, events, camps, sports and fun to a wide range of individuals with special needs. We are proud to say we are embracing the next phase of growth... GHR has purchased the beautiful property that many young adults with special needs will call home. The property will also host vocational training, camps, day programs and a variety of events.

Target demographics: teens and young adults with special needs

Direct beneficiaries per year: numerous teens and young adults with special needs and their families

Geographic areas served: South Bay/Los Angeles County/San Fernando Valley

Programs: Life Skills and Social Skills Classes; Cooking, Yoga, Track & Fitness, Art, Supper Club, Summer Camp and Camp Coyote Ridge overnight camp.

Community Stories

55 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch, is set in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains on an idyllic property.
They offer a unique opportunity for special needs young adults to commune with nature and learn life skills in a safe and loving environment. The staff and volunteers are wonderful and caring people who work so hard to create a special environment.
We are proud to have them as part of our community.

Palangi

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am forever grateful to Golden Heart Ranch for their dedication, inspiration and tireless efforts in providing such incredible resources for my dear, sweet nephew Daniel on a day-to-day basis...without fail. I have watched him thrive, make new friends and grow so much over the many years he’s been fortunate to be involved with them. It is a tremendous relief and comfort knowing there’s such a special place in this world where Daniel is accepted without judgement, nurtured and feels safe and cared for. I cannot imagine what he and his family would do without all the programs, understanding, compassion and support they provide, allowing him to feel part of such an awesome community of people and enabling him to reach his fullest potential. We need a lot more places like GHR!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

What a stunning location, well educated staff and caring volunteers who create exceptional experiences for their young adult participants. Also, we love the animals!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The moment I step onto the Golden Heart Ranch property, the peacefulness encompasses me. It is a wonderfully welcoming place. My tween-age children and I volunteer at cooking classes where alongside special needs young adults and staff, we have such a fun time of sharing, laughing, learning from and with each other as we make and eat a meal together. The sense of community and the friendships that bloom at the ranch are inspiring. The encouragement and safety for the ranchers to learn life skills is incredible. The staff is warm, knowledgeable and patient. The location is relaxing and beautiful and the animals are active and well cared for. Needless to say, we love our time at Golden Heart Ranch!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is an amazing organization working tirelessly to build a future home for our adults with special needs. They have such wonderful, caring and engaging staff members and volunteers that really go the extra mile for these kiddos.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The minute we stepped onto the Ranch property, I knew we had found a very unique place! And I’d visited many programs! From the energy of the program aides, the different project areas (art studio, outdoor stage, swimming pool, playground etc) to the animals and comfort of the general room (including kitchen), they had it all. I knew my autistic daughter would love it, and she adjusted right away. The aides got to know her very fast and we love it that they tire her out with physical exercise. Thank you Golden Heart Ranch for all you do for the special kids we have!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From the second I stepped foot on site at the Ranch I knew just how special it was. Golden Heart Ranch provides programs for those with special needs but it is so much more than that. It is the definition of kindness and community. Some of my favorite recent memories are because of the Ranch and I am happy to be part of such an incredible organization!

VK L.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is a special place. Their philosophy of nurturing the whole family, while providing services to one special needs member, is apparent in every event. Rose Van Wier Hein has created a place that equips its attendees to live fuller lives beyond its borders. I've visited and volunteered there multiple times, and each time I am amazed at the sincerity and passion that all the staff brings to the ranch. GHR is the epitome of a 'human-centered' nonprofit.

Robert F.8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is an awesome place ! Nestled in a canyon just 10 minutes from the 101 Freeway off of Kanan in Agoura Hills, this Ranch is a very peaceful place to visit. The staff are very knowledgable and friendly and the programs they put on are very fun and inclusive. The animals are all well taken care of and are very fun to be around. If you have a chance to participate in any activities the Ranch has to offer, I would highly recommend it!

Kathleen La Mantain F.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I love golden Heart Ranch. When my daughter Keri the director of the facility first took me to the Ranch I fell in love. The ranch is magical. It provides a place for people with disabilities to learn to cook, socialize, learn art or music, CPR, care for animals like nosey Rosie the resident cow, collect eggs from the chicken coops, feed goats and tortoise , as well as, bunnies. They have many events and outings and are planning to expand to have permanent housing for residents. The young people that have attended Golden Heart Ranch have gained many skills. But I think most of all they gain many friendships that last them a long time. I know my grandkids love the ranch especially my granddaughter. Please consider donating to Golden Heart Ranch it is a very special place.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch has been a God send for my nephew Tyler and our entire family. It's like having a second home. Golden Heart Ranch provides a safe environment where Tyler can spend time and share a multitude of experiences with others. The smile on Tyler's face when he's at the ranch says it all. The joy we see in Tyler brings joy to all of us. Thank you for being there for our boy. It has changed all of our lives!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter enjoys visiting the ranch with her friends from the SouthBay.She has spent the weekend and always wants to return. The pool and multiple activities including music, arts and crafts provided by the awesome staff are outstanding. Looking forward to and excited about the October carnival. Wish we lived closer so our daughter Erin could spend more time at the ranch.

Sneek R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5


Golden Heart Ranch allows me to volunteer and make a difference in a meaningful way, by providing the opportunity to connect with special needs young adults. I personally love seeing the huge smiles and how they progress within the years of me volunteering with GHR.

Client Served

Rating: 5

From the moment we arrived at Golden Heart Ranch, we felt like family. Its staff and volunteers radiate a culture of genuine love and respect for their ranchers. It’s not the kind of artificial family-feel dictated by some carefully crafted mission statement. This is the real deal! My son is thriving in their program. He feels safe, confident and bolstered by his leaders, who approach everything they do with contagious joy and enthusiasm. We are so grateful to be a part of this remarkable community!

Nicole D.6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is a great company to be part of and work for. It provides an environment that helps young special needs people develop positive relationships with there peers. It provides enriching, creative activities that they can participate in. Golden Heart Ranch gives the youth opportunities to develop leadership and decision-making skills as well as life skills.

Jeni P.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch provides opportunities for learning life , social, recreational skills, and much more in a unique mountain setting. Ranchers with and without disabilities are working alongside each other building an inclusive environment to care for all the animals (cow, chickens, rabbits, tortoises, goats). The variety of program activities led by professionals ensures that each individual will find a program that aligns with their goals and personal interests: cooking, fitness, art, community outings, to just name a few. If you are looking for a program for an individual with a disability Golden Heart Ranch is a MUST!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is such a special place. The property is amazing, serene, peaceful and well cared for! The animals who live there are extremely docile and calming to the kids. Rosie the cow is so friendly and the goats, chickens and rabbits sure do love the ranchers. The pool is beautiful and very inviting. The best thing about Golden Heart Ranch are the people that work there. Loving, caring, kind, nurturing, understanding, and thoughtful. Golden Heart Ranch is awesome.

kerileeann

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Many of our Ranchers have never slept away from home without their parent (or other trusted family member) with them. We started our Camp Coyote Ridge program about 1.5 years ago. In that time, we have had at least 9 or 10 Ranchers sleep away from home in a Camp type setting for the FIRST TIME! It is an amazing opportunity for the Rancher, their parents, and for the GHR staff. We are working on increasing independence, parents get a much deserved "break," and the staff get to share in the smiles, fun, and success of the weekend. Camp Coyote Ridge is one of many of our amazing programs, but it has quickly become a favorite. -Nurse Keri BSN, CDDN

Previous Stories

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch has been a place of calm and acceptance in a world that can be unkind towards people who are different. The ranchers/participants teach us to slow down, look at the world through different lenses, and challenge us to find unique ways of communicating. I do my best to be their friend and mentor, and each one of the ranchers teaches me something in return. Sometimes the greatest gifts come when we aren't looking, and Golden Heart Ranch is truly one of those gifts for me.

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1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Meet Noel: my exceptionally handsome, shy, twenty-two-year old son with autism. Noel is fond of swimming, silly noises, but most of all, he loves working/eating/doing anything and everything with his friends. For many years, I have known that the happiest environment for Noel to live in would be communal, much like the Kibbutz’ in Israel. Golden Heart Ranch is the only organization in the Los Angeles area with a vision of the sort of the future we dream of for Noel; one where he will flourish as he does laps in the pool, prepares meals, laughs at the silly sounds the chickens and the cow make as he does his daily chores in a safe environment surrounded by friends he loves. Golden Heart Ranch is both our prayer - and Noel’s best chance at a dignified, happily ever after.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch provides amazing programming for my brother and so many people like him. I am grateful for the sense of belonging that Golden Heart Ranch provides to my brother and his friends, and the community that has built up among participating families.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch provides wonderfully rich opportunities for special needs young adults. Camp Coyote Ridge, sponsored by GHR, was my son's first sleep away experience and he had a blast. The staff is amazing, they're always looking for ways to facilitate meaningful interactions with peers and the community.

Stephanie B.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

We adore Golden Heart Ranch! This grass roots program started by Rose van-Wier Hein, supported by a small tight-knit group of parents with the same desire , launching programs to support all kids/adults in the different abilities community. Rose has been the visionary and the drive to get this to the point it is today. Programs in both the South Bay (SoCal) and Agoura Hills. Camps, Stay-overs, holiday parties & events, family pool days. Amazing this has come so very far in a short amount of time.
My son participates in many of their activities (track club, Supper club, cooking classes, outings and camps). Its wonderful to know that your child is able to go on excursions, be safe, and enjoy with people who will guide & support the group with a range of abilities. Love GHR!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have served the ASD community for 20 years. It has been such a humbling experience to see a place that is dedicated towards building lifelong friendship and recreational activities fit for a community that truly needs it the most. GHR brings heart to many families across the Ventura County area.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart is an excellent place for parents to leave their special needs young adults. There are a variety of great activities and the staff is great. Highly recommended. Prices are decent and I actually believe the prices should be raised since the quality is just that great.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After hearing about this special needs ranch I began volunteering my time working with these wonderful young adults. Everyone involved is caring, loving, and giving individuals. Many have degrees and education needed. Everyone is trained to be able to handle issues from the smallest to bigger issues that come up. I loved working with everyone involved and if I didnt move to another state I would still be there . I can't say enough to tell you what a wonderful place this is, not only for the young adults attending, but the peace of mind it gives the parents..

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is an amazing organization. Their beautiful ranch located in Agoura offers kids/young adults with special needs a variety of fun and engaging things to do. Some examples include the Art Center where the kids get to try their hand at arts & crafts. There are cooking , fitness and gardening classes. They also have a number of special events for kids and their parents to meet other families.

My wife and I can't say enough about Rose and her terrific organization. Keep up the great work team!!!!

1 MarciaGHR

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the privilege to work as a volunteer for the last two years with this amazing organization! The Golden Heart Ranch is well deserving of this honor!

Previous Stories
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Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am honored to be a part of The Golden Heart Ranch. I started as a volunteer in the Spring of 2016 and ended up becoming one of the family! Our “ranchers” immediately feel at home and comfortable with their surroundings.

Client Served

Rating: 5

There is simply not enough room to tell you how beyond appreciative and grateful our family feels about Golen Heart Ranch. Our son started attending programming at GHR when he was in middle school and it was a BIG struggle just to get him out of the car at drop off. Fast forward (since he will soon be 18 years old) Zach would often remind me that it was his day to go to one of his GHR after-school activities. Unfortunately, we have moved out of the area but it's not too far where we can easily jump right back into the swing of things. The seasonal camps offered when school wasn't in session was a huge plus because it provided the much-needed respite for the caregivers and parents while providing an enriching, purposeful and fun opportunity to connect with others and build friendships. So many skills were introduced, reinforced and modified depending on the level of functioning of the participant. In addition, no two days were the same and the environment put the safety and well being of all the participants as their number one priority. My son came home everday from happy, tired and looking forward to what the next day would bring. Golden Heart Ranch will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you GHR and staff for setting the gold standard.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch offers wonderful activities to keep our daughter healthy. She enjoys exercising with her friends weekly. Programs like this aren't common and we are blessed to have it in our neighborhood.

Cindi H.1

Donor

Rating: 5

This is a fantastic place helping the most beautiful people.

Bobbie H.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are so thankful for this community of special families and the amazing work they do and support they provide!!! We love Golden Heart Ranch!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our 23 year old daughter loves her time at The Ranch. Since she aged out of the school system, finding stimulating programs and activities for her has been a challenge. When she's at Golden Heart Ranch she's surrounded by friends, loving staff and social stimulation in an environment that is warm and nurturing. She's made real friends and loves spending time with them in a beautiful, healing natural setting. We are so grateful for Golden Heart Ranch.

Donor

Rating: 5

My son Alex has been active with GHR sponsored programs for @ 5 years. Not solely has he been welcomed by staff and counselors but he has also been welcomed by other campers.
Any GHR program that Alex has been involved with has been stimulating and participatory.
The GHR friends are going on outings, to dinners, swimming, sailing etc..... Alex really enjoys the activities and the friendships he has made. There aren't many places or organizations where Alex feels included----GHR is an exception to that. A beautiful organization and environment which allows these young adults to blossom and grow!

Katie F.2

Advisor

Rating: 5

I am the Mother of identical twin boys with Down Syndrome. You can imagine the effort it took to raise not one but 2 special needs children. With the help of our community of Manhattan Beach, I was supported in raising the twins to be incorporated into our culture by fully including them in sports, socialization, education and the programs necessary for their continued growth and development. The Golden Heart Ranch is a place where they feel welcomed and understood. It is where they will continue to be part of another community and live and flourish as independent young adults. I can honestly say that I feel very confident about the decisions to empower them to live on their own in this wonderful environment.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My young adult son attends Golden Heart Ranch track club, cooking club, supper club an numerous other social activities. He so enjoys going out with his friends and often waits by the front door ready to go. GHR has helped my son access his community with purpose. Our kids shop in local supermarkets, eat in local restaurants, take public transportation to other destinations, and participate in community events. The GHR coaches work so hard to give our young adults a life they so deserve. Thank you Golden Heart Ranch for being so important to us all!

2 Mary C.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I would like to thank GHR for its wonderful programs. They have helped my son Tyler a great deal. He has become more independent and social. They have taught him necessary skills that he needs moving forward-he takes the metro and bus with them and sees great places with them. He has also learned to navigate the kitchen with their cooking program. He has learned to be a team player and gets lots of exercise with his peers at track club. I could go on and on but also I want to thank you for giving a much needed rest to us moms when he is attending your programs. It’s a win win. He is having fun while learning and we get a brake. Wonderful job- again thanks from the James family - we love you-

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son Nicholas has been attending Golden Heart Ranch in Agoura Hills for the past year. The Ranch is one of his favorite places to be. The staff is loving and compassionate and we feel safe leaving our son in their care. Our family is excited to help support the Ranch as they continue expanding their programs and services. We are looking forward to sleep away camp.

jpisano

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our family has been engaged with Golden Heart Ranch since they acquired the Ranch property in Agoura Hills, California. Our son Michael goes to every event, which the GHR staff implements with great skill and compassion. Michael has made many new friends because of GHR programs & events, which are both fun and supportive. Our family continues to support Golden Heart Ranch with the goal of helping them expand their services and programs.

1 Debbie Tippit C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is an answer to our prayers!! My younger son is 20 years old and is on the autism spectrum. GHR provides wonderful activities for young adults with disabilities. I can't wait until their residential area is built -- then my son can live there and learn important life skills as well as ranching skills. The staff is so supportive and very nice.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch has been life-changing for my son. He finally feels like he has a community of friends with things in common. He participates in their cooking classes, Ranch Days, camps and special events and loves each and every activity. The Ranch is a magical place with a wonderfully supportive staff. Nothing else in the community comes close to Golden Heart Ranch.

Previous Stories
1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is the first place I found that I can actually imagine my son one day living. The Ranch is beautiful, the staff knowledgeable and supportive. My son loves their Social Living Clubs because they encourage and empower his independence and promote friendships. He's very social and, like a lot of young adults with special needs doesn't get invited to parties, so his time at the ranch and in the community at Supper Club fills that void. I love everything about this place. It has really been the answer to so many of our prayers.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is a fantastic organization who seeks to serve and meet the needs of their community. They have a heart and desire to see their participants grow as they learn new skills, meet new people, and make new memories. You will be so happy that you joined this group!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

As a fundraising consultant, I have partnered with Golden Heart Ranch on several projects. This organization has a compassionate and inspiriting vision to support individuals with Autism and related special needs as well as a dedicated team of caring staff members. I appreciate the wonderful programs and impact that they have here in Los Angeles County.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

We live in the neighborhood, and feel very honored to have Golden Heart Ranch nearby. We recently attended an event there and met some of the people running the program, and were very impressed with their commitment and vision. We hope to be able to help them continue to grow and thrive.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch has been on the cutting edge of developing intentional communities for teens and adults with a variety of disabilities. Through the FRED Conference, they brought together people from all over the country and the world, to talk about options for creating sustainable, creative living options for adults with special needs. Providing programs like their Supper Club, Social Club, hiking and track activities, Golden Heart Ranch is providing social and recreational opportunities for teens and young adults who frequently are isolated from their peers. Their plan for a future living community is a dream come true for so many parents who are looking for a safe, caring, nurturing place for their adult children who need a supportive living environment. Rose and her team have worked tirelessly to make this dream come true, and have done an amazing job of finding community partners to help build the dream.

1 Dina K.

Board Member

Rating: 5

This amazing organization is building a safe, beautiful, forever home for adults who have developmental disabilities. As a parent of a 22 year old with multiple physical and developmental disabilities, I am looking for a place that my son could live and be happy, healthy, fulfilled and safe. Golden Heart Ranch is it!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is a wonderful organization for individuals with special needs. My son participates in many activities through their social living program for young adults. He enjoys cooking and supper club with friends. The most amazing is track club once a week where the group is involved in many exercises, stretching, and at least a mile around the track! I have seen so much improvement in each participant. Everyone is out there moving and staying involved. *I was told my son may never walk or talk, and now he RUNS to meet his friends on the track to warm up and get started. The friendships and fun activities are a dream come true. He has learned many new skills and gained more confidence. The staff is the BEST! The world would be a better place with more caring and understanding people and places like Golden Heart Ranch who are in it for the right reasons.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Golden Heart Ranch is an amazing community for young adults with special needs. Everyone hopes to live in a safe and caring community, and GHR provides that along with opportunities to establish life long friendships, work opportunities, and a lovely environment for recreation.
I have been lucky enough to volunteer at Community Days and watch this beautiful ranch blossom for these wonderful people.

1

Client Served

Rating: 4

My son Cole went to his first Supper Club event at Johnny Rocket's in Calabasas. There were about ten attendees, plus staff from Golden Heart Ranch. His friend who also joined Golden Heart Ranch went with us and the boys had a nice time. They got to see friends from school and eat their heads off! I left them at the table a couple of times and aside from asking when I was coming back, Cole did really well! The staff were very friendly, patient and seemed to enjoy the group as much as the group enjoyed doing something new and different ... eating outside with a bunch of new friends!

1 Desiree' K.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The FRED Conference hosted by Golden Heart Ranch was a transformative event that brought leaders together from across the country. Their efforts started a ripple which is now a wave of innovators who know they are now alone- the FRED Conference also introduced me to my now Fiance! I can't wait to visit and hang out with friends again at GHR :)

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have never had anything in our area for my daughter to meet new friends. This program is a chance for her to do activities with new friends and also to grow socially. The different classes like cooking, art, gardening, etc... is so much more fun if you are doing it with friends and in an environment which is safe and understanding. It's amazing!!!

Thank you Golden Heart Ranch

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I donated my time and skills as a contractor after a friend with an autistic daughter told me about this non-profit. They needed help developing a property near me in Ventura County Calif. It was once a youth camp and needs all the help any older property does to bring it up to modern codes etc. The GHR plan is to transform it into a safe and happy home for young special needs adults. I met the Founder, Rose, after having looked over the GHR website the night before I was to work there.. Her story deeply moved me, and meeting her was very inspiring. I met other kind and decent folks who had come to do anything they could to help GHR. I also met a very impressive group of young Americorps members who were living onsite for a few weeks while doing fantastic work around the ranch. Most importantly I had the privilege to meet and interact with some truly wonderful young adults with special needs. The whole experience has changed the way I think, feel and from now on, act when it comes to the issue of Quality of Life for our special needs citizens. I have never felt as appreciated as I did helping GHR . Every single person I met seemed authentic and genuine in the support of GHR, I believe that the overall commitment and level of dedication to seeing the GOLDEN HEART RANCH reach it's goals is present in everyone involved with this non-profit.They cherish even the smallest of donations and thanked me again and again. There is no doubt in my mind that this project and it's people are honest, earnest and absolutely worthy of investment. The GHR is not merely a "good cause", it's THE RIGHT THING TO DO. We all have a responsibility to see that issues of importance such as this are supported universally. I urge anyone who can ,to contact, donate, volunteer and support Golden Heart Ranch.