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Mar 20, 2012 1:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Real Estate Agent Named 'Volunteer Of The Year' At Timothy Hill Ranch

Mar 20, 2012 6:44 PM

When Danielle Fisher took her seat in a pew at the East End Church of Christ in East Hampton last summer, she didn’t realize that her life’s course was about to change. At that time, she had already embarked on a new journey in community service—volunteering her time to help troubled teens at the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead.

Ms. Fisher met Jerry Hill, the co-founder of the ranch, in December 2010, while living in Manhattan and working for a Prudential real estate agency there. After hearing about the ranch and its unique mission, the South Dakota native decided to go there once a month to help out.

But it was as she was sitting beside Mr. Hill’s wife, Fern, in the church last year while he delivered a sermon when Ms. Fisher suddenly felt moved to deepen her service commitment beyond volunteering a few weeks here and there.

“God just put it on my heart that now is the opportunity to take my summer to give,” she explained.

Once she finished volunteering full-time at the ranch last August, ending a four-month commitment, Ms. Fisher said she was approached by Thaddaeus “Thud” Hill, the executive director of the ranch and the son of its two founders, who asked her to consider staying longer. That led to another invitation for her to become the “house parent” in one of the facility’s independent living homes, where she would care for and mentor some of the teens living on the ranch.

Ms. Fisher then transferred her real estate license to Hampton Estates Realty on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach, deciding to stay at the ranch for good. She still serves as a house parent for two teenage boys, though she usually cares for three of them.

On Thursday, March 29, Ms. Fisher is being honored as the ranch’s Volunteer of the Year during its “Black Tie and Boots Gala,” a fundraiser that will be held at the Sea Star Ballroom of the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. The event runs from 6:30 until 10:30 p.m. In addition, Suffolk County National Bank is being recognized that evening as the ranch’s Business of the Year for collecting donations from its customers last fall, while All for the Kids, a charity that delivered two truckloads of Christmas gifts to the ranch last year, will be honored as the ranch’s Ambassador of the Year.

Ms. Fisher said she is shocked and humbled by the recognition. “This was all God’s perfect plan,” she said, adding that she has wanted to get involved in youth ministry since attending a mission trip at age 14 to a reservation in South Dakota.

“Danielle is an asset to the ranch. The boys really warmed up to her and she is always on call if they need her,” said Jaime Danza, the director of development at the ranch. She noted that, over the summer, Ms. Fisher organized the food shopping for the 30 teenagers living there.

Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch was the dream of the Hills’ oldest son, Timothy, who, after witnessing the hardships of the young boys that his parents took in to their Riverhead home, said he wanted to “build a place where troubled kids could live, be loved, feel safe and have wide open spaces to ride horses,” according to the facility’s website, www.timothyhillranch.org. He started raising funds for his dream at age 12. After their son’s tragic death at age 13 in 1972—he was struck by a truck while riding his bicycle—the Hills put their son’s dream into motion, opening the ranch in his memory in 1980.

Since then, hundreds of troubled teens have grown into young men of character because of their time spent on the ranch. Many have even come back over the years to volunteer.

“The ranch is my family away from my family, and I am blessed to have met Jerry and Fern,” Ms. Fisher said. “They are the most generous, caring, loving people I have met in my entire life. What they have created at the ranch is inspiring.”

For Ms. Fisher, selling real estate and working with teens are two completely different worlds. She compared the structured routines and discipline at the ranch to military service. She thinks the most rewarding part of working with the boys is seeing how they grow emotionally and spiritually over the course of a year. Ms. Fisher said she is proud of their progress.

“At times, it is heartbreaking to learn about their lives and what they have been through, although it is inspiring to see them accomplish so much and see that their futures are extremely bright,” Ms. Fisher said, adding that the boys who live at the ranch work hard to accomplish their goals.

“When you see something worth giving your all, that’s what you do,” she added. “The ranch has given me a beautiful life. I truly am blessed.”

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