Program would pair boys, dogs

GRANADA – Right now, it looks like a modest, small-town Protestant church.

The only indication of the new life being planned for it is a small sign on the side of the building: Future site of Second Chances.

Brenda Duncan and her husband, Gene, are in the process of bringing a new type of group home to Granada, on the site of the former Assembly of God church. Second Chances would be one of the only homes for boys and dog rescue centers in the nation.

Duncan is in process of organizing the paperwork and training details required for the home, but hopes to see it open as soon as January.

The couple bought the old church and the shop across the street with a vision of housing troubled teen boys in the church and running a dog shelter across the street.

Each boy placed under the Duncans’ care would be encouraged to choose a dog in need of training, and would then become responsible to make it “adoption-ready” with basic manners and housebreaking.

Brenda Duncan said the path the couple took to starting a group home was wide and varied, but with the building’s purchased, the organization’s non-profit status application under way and a board of directors in place, the next hurdle is to renovate the buildings.

The church is a shell of a building, according to Duncan. It will need to be completely renovated to accommodate up to eight boys in a home-like setting.

Duncan hopes to raise $40,000 before beginning the construction, a feat she is accomplishing through community raffles and events.

“Once [the money is raised], Gene and a two-man crew can get it done in three months,” Duncan said.

Gene has a background in construction. Brenda is a social worker.

While preparing their business plan, the couple sent out survey forms to surrounding counties, inquiring about a need and desirability for a program that pairs troubled boys with dogs.

“It was discouraging and encouraging at the same time,” she said. “The response was very positive.”

In fact, she is already receiving requests for placements.

Duncan said the ideal candidates for the program would be boys 12 to 18 years old with troubles including conduct disorders, truancy issues and criminal backgrounds.

After picking out a dog to work with, the boys would visit the shelter several times per day. The boys also would work on schooling and going through a behavioral program.

Duncan said little research has been done on programs of this kind, as there aren’t many out there, but what she has seen reinforces that working with the animal “teaches the boy patience, unconditional love and a good work ethic.”

When a dog is trained, the plan is to put it for adoption.

The group home will have a family guest room, so approved visitors can spend time with their loved one, and it will not be a locked facility.

The young men would work through a National Department of Corrections program called “Thinking for a Change,” which, according to the website, is an integrated, cognitive behavioral change program for offenders that includes cognitive restructuring, social skills development and development of problem-solving skills.

Duncan said many services to the boys will be outsourced, including schooling and medical visits.

The length of stay varies, but could be as little as 30 days or as long as a year, depending on the judge’s order.

“The program we are trying to start needs to be a collaboration of services,” Duncan said. “It is a unique program.”

Second Chances is holding two fundraisers this summer. The first will take place 4-8 p.m. July 31 at Perkins in Fairmont and include a raffle. The second will be 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 25, and will be a pancake breakfast and raffle.

For more information, contact Brenda Duncan at (507) 236-7331.