Adult Teen and Challenge of the 4 States raising money for mowers

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Adult and Teen Challenge (ATC) of the 4 states in Neosho is working to pay off a $15,000 loan for two new mowers for their Work Therapy program.

A faith based residential care program for young people and adults who’ve struggled with life-controlling problems, the programs at the ATC range from six to 12-18 months and consist of biblical studies, work programs, education and more and has been in Neosho for around 25 years.

A 501(c)3 non-profit, they fund themselves through their work programs, that mainly include wood cutting in the winter and lawn mowing in the summer, and spring and donations.

In addition to funding the program participants room and board, the Work Therapy program also teaches them skills they can use once they leave the program.

“You’re going to have some guys come in that have never worked a day in their life,” said Jason Davis, who directs the Work Therapy program at the ATC. “I’ll put them to work around the property for the first week or two just to get an idea of what they can do. If I know they have a specific area they can excel in, if they’ve mowed lawns or cut trees before, then that’s where I’ll put them.”

Last summer, most of their profits went to repairing older mowing equipment.

“The whole last mowing season, a huge amount of what would be profit went into repairs,” said Zach Norris, the ATC Director of Central and Southwest Missouri. “This year, we got two new mowers on a loan and were able to purchase them for $15,000.”

The ATC has been through a number of setbacks in recent months, including less donations coming in during the pandemic and then being robbed of their wood cutting equipment last winter.

“It’s like we work so hard and can never get ahead due to various things,” said Norris in an email to the Neosho Daily News.

“It was someone that knew where things were, someone that worked here,” added Norris last week. “It was very disheartening.”  

After their wood cutting equipment was stolen, the ATC revamped where they stored it with more security including better locks and bars on the window. But it happened again.

“A newsperson came out and did a story on the community pitching in and helping us get new saws,” said Norris. “We had these new saws; the reporter shot a picture of those new saws and that night (they got stolen again).”

Last year, the program was raising funds for a needed new van and this year they are raising funds to pay off the loan for the new mowers as quickly as possible.

The Adult Teen and Challenge Center of the 4 States is raising money for its new mowers, here's how you can help.

Maintenance was needed on the mowing equipment, that was 11-12 years old, daily and only specific places offered the services necessary to repair them.

“They’re only made to run, on average, 3,000 hours on an engine,” said Davis. “When I took over the department, these older mowers, we were replacing spindles and other things that went out on them. Next thing you know, an engine starts to fail. They didn’t have the proper systems to do the amount of work we do for the season.”

“Last year, it seemed like every dollar we were raising we were having to put back into repairs,” said Norris. “Now, we have a fresh start and we’re going to do our best to take care of (the mowers), upkeep and not letting just anyone work on them.”

Although it’s been a trying time for a program that is working to help get people get their lives back on track, the ATC staff has used it as a teachable moment. Whether it was in their immediate reaction to finding their saws stolen the next day or how they responded to the pandemic preventing work opportunities and visitors.

“We’re teaching them, that in life, you have to provide (for yourself) or if you have a family,” said Davis. “Our wood season, this past year, has been the highest its ever been, even with us getting knocked off. That setback was a gut punch, not only once but twice.”

“But we knew that we had to push through. We couldn’t give up,” added Davis. “If the students here saw us give up, if the community saw us give up, then the support we would have would dry up. We had to keep pushing through and persevere through the situation. We were able to use that as a training exercise for the guys. When they leave this program after 12 months and go out there and have a set back with their job or life, what we’re doing is training them to be able to take those hard blows we experienced (and move forward).”

To donate to the ATC’s fundraising efforts to pay off their two new mowers, visit bit.ly/DonateATC4S