Farm to help autistic youth

Rebekah’s Children Services in Gilroy, a social services organization that offers outreach to children with severe emotional, mental or behavioral issues, has plans to establish a brand-new Gilroy campus that would not only cater to its current clientele base, but possibly to families with autistic children.
Rebekah’s – a 115-year-old nonprofit headquartered at 290 IOOF Ave. in Gilroy and throughout the Bay Area – is currently exploring possible properties for purchase in east or west rural Gilroy to establish a working farm. The goal is to have the new center open and operating in about three years, according Roy Melendez, Director of Development Donor Relations at Rebekah’s.
“It’s something that is definitely keeping within our mission of servicing children,” said Melendez. “It’s kind of going back to our roots because the children’s home was originally an orphanage, but also a working farm.”
Bringing children and teens to a working farm with crops and animals allows them to receive services in a setting with vocational elements and learning opportunities, Melendez explained.
Melendez said Rebekah’s has been studying for some time now various working farms across the country, known formally as “agricultural therapeutic communities.” Rebekah’s model, which will be based on examples and practices drawn from other working farms, could possibly offer day and residential programs.
Melendez said the funding for a project of this scale will have to come from a diverse range of sources, including private donations, fee for services and government grants.
“It’s all being looked at,” said Melendez. “We’re still in the exploratory phase.”