Strongpoint Theinert Ranch, a unique retreat and bridge program founded and operated by the Shelter Island family of fallen U.S. Army 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert to help veterans and gold star families in the wake of war and tragedy, has successfully funded their new bunkhouse, which they will now call the barracks. Two years in the making, this fundraising goal was the organization’s first major capital project at their 1,000-acre property in Magdalena, New Mexico, where the Theinert family have been hosting veterans in need of help, at no cost, since 2016.
The new barracks marks a significant positive shift for Strongpoint Theinert Ranch (STR), which can now host nearly double the number of veterans and accommodate military couples, opening new therapeutic opportunities and programs at the ranch.
STR president and schoolteacher Jimbo Theinert, 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert’s younger brother, acknowledges that the fundraising process was long for the barracks, but COVID swept in and mostly put all ranch programming on hold.
“Throughout the COVID pandemic, we definitely kept in touch with all the veterans in our network and our social worker, and continued to follow up and make sure our people were doing OK,” he says, also noting that they were able to host a day hike in June for local 106th Rescue Wing veterans at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, which served to “release the pressure valve of things they’ve been struggling with,” including the loss of colleagues before and during the pandemic.
“We’ve been doing what we can from the program angle, but certainly it’s been pared down and the focus has been toward the building of the barracks,” Theinert says. “We should have the barracks completed on the property by the end of the year, which is really exciting.”
Theinert explains that STR had to do some additional fundraising in the spring to meet rising costs of labor and materials, but they eventually achieved their goal. “I’m very happy to say that this year, although we were unable to host any events, through social fundraisers and people just stepping up, and donations, we did raise over $50,000, which we needed to get us through this final phase of construction,” he says.
“We’re fully funded for construction,” Theinert continues. “What we’re still in need of, as every nonprofit that continues to operate, is just ongoing program expenses. We still want to be able to bring veterans out to the ranch at no cost to them. Now that we’ll have the barracks, we want to possibly open it up to military couples, military families,” he says. “The new structure is going to be larger than what we have been operating out of, so instead of hosting 8 or 10 veterans at a time, it will be more manageable for us to do 14 to 16 participants at a time. There’s still definitely a financial need. We’re not to the place of an endowment yet — that’s certainly a long term goal for us so that we can continue to do this…”
At the start of 2021, the STR board set two major missions for the year: continue to support the veterans in their network to the best of their ability, and to see construction of the barracks to the finish line. They’ve now succeeded at both, keeping their network stable and, if all goes according to plan, getting the barracks built before 2022.
“We still have two very big months ahead of us,” Theinert says, explaining that the barracks’ foundation and septic is going in this week. Then the modular build parts will be delivered to the ranch by the end of November. Finally, he says, “Getting the house all together and tied up on the property should happen by the end of December, before Christmas.”
Theinert says the new building will comprise more than 3,000 square feet, including a large bunk room that will simulate a military environment with shared sleeping space, accommodating 10–12 participants on bunkbeds, along with two ensuite bathrooms. The open floor plan also features a kitchen with attached common gathering area as well as a library stocked with relevant books and movies that could help activate thoughtful conversation and group discussion. Additional bedrooms will also be available for staff, couples or more individual participants as needed.
The total cost of the barracks from start to finish comes in at around $350,000–$375,000, Theinert says, pointing out that they’ve also been able to feed money to their programming expenses during this time, but once construction is completed, much more money can be allocated to STR’s true mission: bringing veterans to the ranch for healing, camaraderie, personal growth and change.
While the former living space for participants, which is in the Theinert family home, will remain available for overflow, this new facility is owned by the foundation, not the family, and will help keep STR activities a bit separate. “Pretty much myself, my stepfather or my mom was involved with every program in the past,” Theinert says. “The ranch has the family name on it, and it’s always going to be a family place, but we are also aware that we can do a little bit more good if we let up the reins a bit and allow some of the other people in our organization to step up and be the leaders of these trips, and through this new building, which is owned by the foundation.”
Five years into its good work, Strongpoint Theinert Ranch has already helped dozens of veterans struggling with life after service, but this is truly the beginning. Construction of the new barracks marks a major milestone in the organization’s growth. STR’s future is looking bright, and veterans all across the country, from all age groups and conflicts, will be grateful for it.
Learn more about Strongpoint Theinert Ranch, including how to help their mission by donating, at strongpointtheinert.org.