DIXONVILLE — At the end of a private road called Grouse Butte Lane in this rural area east of Roseburg sits a 400-acre ranch.
Dave and Christy Grammon have big dreams for the place. They want to build a facility here called the 2nd Chance Ranch. It would house up to 150 men who’ve been through drug rehab and are trying to make a better life for themselves. Christy Grammon said she envisions a place where the men would learn life skills, farm the land, receive peer counseling and horse therapy, and learn trades that could help them find living-wage jobs.
But the project’s future is unclear and neighbors are very much opposed to the idea. They say the Grammons have picked land that’s not suitable for the project — it has limited water and a primitive road, and is far from emergency services. They also fear the project would change the character of the area. They’re not sure they’d be safe in their homes.
A MISSION OF HOPE
The Grammons run Roseburg-based TrueNorth Star Ministries. They operate sober living houses in Roseburg and started the 2nd Chance Community Foundation to raise money for the ranch.
The Grammons believe God has given them a mission to reach out to the many men in Douglas County who are struggling with addiction, cycling in and out of jail, and on and off the streets.
Christy Grammon said the couple’s mission grew out of an earlier effort to help foster kids.
It started when they became empty nesters, she said, and decided to take on a foster son. In the years to come, they took on additional boys. Eventually, they opened TrueNorth Star Boys Ranch in Camas Valley, which they later relocated to Lookingglass.
The ranch typically held about six boys at a time, including sexual abuse survivors who, today, would have been called child-trafficking victims. The key to helping them, Grammon said, was learning how adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, created lasting damage.
Christy Grammon said the boys ranch closed after they took on a foster son who hadn’t been approved through the state Department of Human Services. Grammon said the boy was a young teenager who would have been on the streets if they hadn’t stepped in to help him. But after that, Grammon said, DHS refused to send them any more foster kids. After the last kid aged out of the program, the boys ranch shut down in 2014.
But Grammon believes the end of the boys ranch was just God having a new plan for them. These days, the Grammons have begun centering their hopes on improving the lives of men.
Dave Grammon became chaplain at the Douglas County Jail and felt the men he was helping there were just the grown-up versions of boys like the ones they’d helped on the ranch.
“They’re lost and they don’t know what to do, and they’re just acting out their pain. All of these addictions are just normal responses to their pain, unresolved childhood issues,” Christy Grammon said.
And a 30 or 90 day inpatient treatment can help, but it isn’t going to be enough to turn their lives around, she said. Once they become outpatients, they need a mentor, they need a safe place to live, and they need a living-wage job.
In 2017, the Grammons opened up two sober living houses in Roseburg that, together, house about 10 men.
“Our sober living houses come with help. They also come with faith, so this is a positive environment where you can be inspired to understand that you have worth and value, and that God sees you differently, and that he’s not mad at you, and he’s not upset with you, and he’s really patient and it’s OK if it’s not a straight line,” Grammon said.
“We believe in second chances over and over and over again, and we’re not mad at you, and we don’t think you’re a failure or a screwup, and we’ll say to you, ‘Try again. It’s OK, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try that again,’” she said.
Now, the Grammons want to build something much bigger.
But the 2nd Chance Ranch proposal has some obstacles ahead. Questions have been raised about whether the Grammons have picked the right property on which to manifest their vision.
On a Friday afternoon just after Christmas, eight neighbors of the proposed ranch site gathered in a square around a table in Marnie and Kevin Keller’s home to discuss their concerns.
“I’d like to start by saying how compassionate we are to the population that the Grammons are trying to serve, but this facility seems like it could potentially, in its location, even be dangerous for them, and perhaps grossly inadequate,” said neighbor Melinda Benton.
One by one, the neighbors ticked off their concerns.
The only access to the property is a series of private gravel driveways connected together in what they say isn’t really even a road. The ranch sits 2.5 miles up, at the dead end of that road. The neighbors said adding traffic could increase fire risk during summer months, when two cars passing each other requires one to drive onto the dry grass next to the road.
Emergency services are distant from the property, they said. It would take police or firefighters a half hour to arrive. The time for an ambulance to reach the property and then turn around and reach a hospital would be about an hour.
One of the biggest concerns in Dixonville is the shortage of water. The neighbors say the ranch’s only water source is a spring that has been known to dry up in the summer. The water reaches the property through a pipe that’s about the width of a person’s thumb and travels a half mile across three other properties to get there.
“There’s no way that a 3/4” pipe fed by a spring can provide water for a project of that magnitude. Impossible. And that is the sole water source,” said Anthony Gangi.
And then there’s the question of safety. The neighbors are worried about having a large group of former jail inmates just up the road. It would fundamentally change the character of the area, they said, since the property is bounded by other residences.
Marnie Keller, for example, works nights and usually returns home around 3 a.m., when she goes out to the barn and checks on the animals.
“I would no longer feel safe here. If I saw some man walking down the road, I’d be like, ‘Who is that and what is he doing?’” she said.
This is the Kellers’ dream home, and Marnie Keller helped build it. Kevin Keller said they’re getting “a hell of a lot less sleep” these days.
“The whole entire Dixonville community is going to be impacted. To come in and dump that problem on all of us and make us rearrange all of our lives … is that fair?” he said.
Some of their concerns may be based on confusion about what’s being proposed — worries that seem to have been fueled by a lack of communication between TrueNorth and the neighbors.
Some of the neighbors pictured a drug rehab center, whereas the Grammons described more of a transition facility that would provide housing, mentoring and assistance with life and job skills that could enable the men to become successful, productive citizens rather than returning to jail or winding up on the streets.
The proposal on the 2nd Chance website does suggest, though, that the facility would offer substance abuse education and addictions counseling. It lists both Dave and Christy Grammon as Qualified Mental Health Associates, but the state Mental Health and Addiction Counseling Board of Oregon’s registry of QMHAs has no listing for either of them.
Christy Grammon said she understood the QMHA to be an education rather than a license, and said they got that education at Springfield-based Jasper Mountain.
The neighbors said their attempts to seek information from the Grammons have been rebuffed.
Benton said when she texted questions to the Grammons, instead of answers she received a response from Dave Grammon that, as a pastor, his time was taken up ministering and discipling men and recommended she talk to other organizations they work with, including the jail, drug court and second-chance employers. That was followed up with a Bible quote.
“So, no information,” she said.
Nicole Martin said when she asked questions on social media, the organization deleted them and closed their posts to comments.
Christy Grammon said they took down and didn’t respond to comments because of the hostility they were receiving. She said neighbors were suggesting terrible things, such as that they were frauds or a cult. She said they’d like to speak with neighbors who are willing to have a conversation.
She also believes the road and the water are adequate. She said the spring is only used by that property, and testing indicated it produces enough water. And there won’t be as big an increase in traffic as some neighbors think, she said, because residents won’t be driving on the road. Instead, staff members will take them to town in a 15-passenger van.
Recovered addict and director of strategic planning for 2nd Chance Ranch Jeremy Grogan said he understands the neighbors’ fears, but there’s nowhere the ranch could go that isn’t next to somebody else’s property.
And if they don’t go somewhere like the ranch, the addicts are not going to disappear. They’re going to go back to their old neighborhoods and get in trouble again. Like it or not, they’re part of the community, he said.
“A lot of people are like ‘they’ and ‘them’ and ‘those people’ as opposed to ‘us.’ Hey, they’re humans too. They’re part of us,” Grogan said.
THE ZONING PROBLEM
An anonymous donor has pledged more than $1 million for the project — Grammon wouldn’t divulge who that donor is — and 2nd Chances has made an offer on the property. But without receiving the money, they can’t yet close on the deal.
Ultimately, though, the biggest obstacle ahead may be the property’s zoning.
Douglas County Planning Director Joshua Shaklee said the property is currently zoned Exclusive Farm Use Grazing. It’s one of the most restrictive zones, and a facility like the one the Grammons envision would not be permitted.
Shaklee said statewide planning goals aim to protect farmland like this. Housing on Exclusive Farm Use Grazing land is restricted to the farmer, immediate family members and farm workers, and it’s tough to get additional buildings on these farms, let alone a 150-man treatment center.
Sometimes, landowners obtain conditional-use permits in order to get around zoning requirements. But that may not work here.
Based on the information he has now, Shaklee said in an email, “a conditional use permit for the proposed facility is not possible.”
The 2nd Chance Ranch proposal takes its name from a broader and older movement to encourage businesses to hire people with criminal records who are aiming to better their lives. There are many second-chance employers in Douglas County, and the ones we reached out to are familiar with the Grammons’ work.
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice owns Big O Tires in Roseburg, where the Grammons’ son-in-law formerly worked as a manager. Boice has known the Grammons since they had their boys ranch and has been a big supporter, even making financial donations.
Boice is a second-chance employer and has four employees who now live, or have previously lived, in one of the TrueNorth homes. What he hears from those employees is that the Grammons offer hope.
“They’re extremely grateful. They would never have been able to make it without them. It’s an absolute key ingredient to them being where they’re at today, meaning gainfully employed and paying off their debts to society,” he said.
But he also said the site the Grammons have chosen is problematic because what they originally hoped to build is not allowed within the current land use zoning.
Umpqua Sand and Gravel Administrative Manager Lisa Mount said they’ve had a good success rate working with the Grammons.
“I think any time you can help people up instead of keeping them down, it’s a good thing. Some of our best employees we’ve hired through TrueNorth,” Mount said.
TMS Call Center Executive Vice President Kelly Lowman said TMS had been a second-chance employer for many years before connecting with the Grammons a couple years ago. They’ve worked with thousands of second-chance employees, and while it’s challenging and not 100% successful, it’s worth it. They’ve helped many people break the cycle of drug addiction and crime to become productive citizens.
She thinks the ranch is a good idea, but that the Grammons need to communicate more with the neighbors to get them on board. No matter where such a facility goes, she said, there will be neighbors — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The placement of Serenity Lane in a neighborhood and Adapt near the high school also raised concerns, but they’re not having a negative impact, she said.
She said Dave Grammon wants to help as many people as possible, just for the sake of helping them.
“I mean, you talk to Dave for five minutes and you just get kind of fired up. Like he’s just one of those people who’s really infectious with the way that he, he’s passionate. He loves to help people,” she said.
Two men named Chris sat across a conference room table from a reporter Friday. They were there to talk about the way the Grammons’ current work transformed their lives.
Chris Schumacher is clear-eyed and direct with a long beard in two braids. Chris Hawk is soft spoken.
It’s hard to square these two with their rap sheets, but they didn’t mince words about where they’ve been.
Both struggled with abandonment issues and turned to drugs to soothe the pain. Schumacher said he was an addict for 32 years. He used alcohol, meth, LSD, marijuana.
“Basically, I was a garbage disposal,” he said.
Schumacher said he ended up dealing meth to support his habit, and that’s when he got caught. He believes he had ignored God knocking on the door all his life. When the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team arrested him, that was God kicking the door in.
Hawk was on meth for 20 years and cycled in and out of jail for crimes like burglary and theft. That’s how he supported his habit. At one point, he was so high he broke into a house and then fell asleep on the couch, waking up to find the homeowner pointing a gun at him.
He shared an essay his daughter wrote recently in which she described her father stealing Christmas presents and being afraid of him. Today, he said, she’s proud of him.
Both men had sobered up in jail and gone to drug court, where they had the opportunity to follow a path away from crime and toward success. Both said they’d have failed if they hadn’t met Dave Grammon.
Ultimately, they believe they’d have been back out on the streets doing meth and committing crimes to support their habits. There are really only three ways that story would have ended, Hawk said: More prison, insanity or an early death.
Today, both have good jobs, with Schumacher at Superior Drywall and Hawk at Linen Services. They attend services regularly at the Grammons’ son Jeremy Grammon’s Faith Foundry Church in Roseburg. And they are peer counselors to other men struggling to exit a life of crime and addiction. Both will graduate from drug court on Tuesday.
Hawk said he couldn’t figure Grammon out at first. He asked him what was up his sleeve.
“In my world, if you’re helping me out, you’re wanting something from me,” he said. “That’s the first person that’s ever helped me out that didn’t want anything from me, who loved me for who I am.”
Schumacher said when Grammon reached out a hand and offered to buy him a cup of coffee, he was really offering hope.
“Since I yoked up with God, my recovery has just been a breeze. Drug court was simple. I just did what they asked me to do and everything came with ease. I haven’t struggled,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher said the neighbors don’t need to worry about the ranch’s residents. It’s the people who are still on drugs who break in and steal things, he said. Ranch residents wouldn’t be people in active addiction, he said, but would be people working on creating better lives.
He hopes to work as a peer counselor on the 2nd Chance Ranch.
“I found the Lord and I just have a purpose now, and I believe it’s to work on this ranch and give everybody a little hope. I’m a hope dealer now, not a dope dealer,” he said.
Joseph Lupher, another man who’s been helped by the Grammons, had been homeless on and off since he was kid. Like Schumacher and Hawk, his drugs of choice were alcohol and meth. He, too, turned to a life of crime.
“I’d be wandering aimlessly some nights or just looking for anything I could take from somebody’s backyard. Just doing stupid, dirty stuff to feed my addiction. It was pretty bad,” he said.
Joining a recovery group run by the Grammons helped turn Lupher around. Today he has a good job working for Umpqua Sand and Gravel. He said he can’t imagine how many lives the Grammons’ ministry has touched, because each person they help creates a spiderweb that helps so many others.
“It’s like a ripple effect that’s unstoppable,” Lupher said.