Name: Jonathan Sperry
Occupation: Engineer at the Illinois Commerce Commission
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I value the chance to support a ministry that reaches out to those who are struggling or discouraged, and to share with them the love of Jesus so that broken lives can be made new.
One interesting fact about you: I turn into a miserable grouch if I go a few days without jogging.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Mocha
Name: Dr. Ren Bleem, DC - aka Doc ‘Stache, Board Member
Occupation: Owner of a formidable Mustache. Oh, and Doctor of Chiropractic
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I grew up on a dairy farm and God calls me to do all kinds of cool stuff because of my skill and knowledge base.
One interesting fact about you: I hauled live fish to Chicago’s Chinatown. (I’ve done some stuff.)
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Lemon Sherbert
Name: Melanie Bleem, Board Member
Occupation: Office Manager - Bleem Family Chiropractic, Medical Biller/Coder
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I serve on the Board because I care about the ministries the Ranch provides. The horses also have my heart. I love their stories.
One interesting fact about you: Almost everyone in my family has red hair. However my kids do not have red hair. Genetics at work, I blame their dad. Maybe grandkids?
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: I don’t often eat dairy but it would be cookie dough if I did.
Name: Ron Duff, Board President
Occupation: Real Estate Broker with my wife, Suzie
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I love that Refuge offers a temporary life-escape for kids, volunteers and anyone who visits the campus. It’s an amazing place and a God blessing. I love that Christ is the center of everything the Ranch is.
God is transforming the ranch into an untypical destination that is very inviting and even fascinating to those who visit. Once there… kids and adults quickly experience a place of community and safety. Most important is that Refuge offers an environment to grow personally and spiritually. I find solace at the ranch. Through volunteer work and service, our spirit and faith get recharged. The kids we serve find hope and healing. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of this?
One interesting fact about you: When it’s windy I still feel my hair blowing.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Definitely Moose Tracks
Name: Suzie Duff, Secretary
Occupation: Real Estate Broker, working with my wonderful husband at RE/MAX Professionals
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I am truly blessed to be a part of the Refuge Ranch which allows me to enjoy my love for God’s magnificent creation of animals and nature with the opportunity to serve Him in showing love to anyone that graces the property. As a more recently baptized Christian, I am aware that I have the responsibility of sharing His word and love, and Refuge Ranch allows me this opportunity.
One interesting fact about you: I REALLY like to cook and prepare meals and yummy items for other people. Ironically, that is where I find a lot of joy at the Ranch too! I love the big events that need a meal presented for our volunteers or visitors. It conflicts a bit with my love to 'work the ranch' however, as scooping manure is at the top of my list of 'recreational activities', when I have a little time to spare. I know....that is interestingly 'not right'. I love physical work and getting my hands dirty! I promise, however, to wash up REAL GOOD before serving the chili!!
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: When I was little and we took visits to B&R, I could not pick ONE favorite; so it was a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge and Pralines & Cream. A grocery store run would have to be Mint Choco Chip or now....Moose Tracks....They didn't have yummy combos like that when I was growing up. The choices are endless! Thanks...I am now craving some ice cream!!!
Name: Sarah Lynch, Board Member
Occupation: Mom to 3 kids
Why you serve on the Board at Refuge: I believe that everyone should know how deep God’s love is for them and what better way to see that than to spend time in His creation
One interesting fact about you: I love food! I studied hospitality management in college which included culinary classes. I was forced to eat a lot of delicious food.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Coffee flavored which chocolate chunks
Title: Program Director
Kierra worked at Refuge as a Ranch Hand during college and graduated in 2018 from North Park University with a degree in Non-Profit Management. She oversees all aspects of our Bits of Hope Mentoring program and development. She is joyful and compassionate and we are so happy to have her as part of our team!
What do you love about working at the Ranch: I love that I am part of a community that pushes me to grow deeper in faith in Christ and also serve alongside of those people.
One interesting fact about you: I am probably drinking coffee right now.
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: When I’m not at Refuge I’m probably working on my fixer upper house with my husband or relaxing on my porch with a cup of coffee.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Mint Chocolate Chip
Title: Volunteer Director
JJ started at Refuge at the beginning of 2020. She left a full time career as a military chaplain because she felt that God was calling her to serve at the Ranch. We are humbled by her sacrifice and thankful for her passion for the heart of God!
What made you want to work at the Ranch: It’s the perfect fit of horsemanship and sharing the love of Jesus
One interesting fact about you: Been to all 50 states!
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: Sew, cycle, swim, kayak, and whatever sounds fun!
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Moose Tracks!
Title: Equine Director
Lisa is responsible for all things equine at the Ranch. She works with our green horses, helps our horses (and humans) problem solve through challenges, oversees vetting, herd health and management. We are so thankful for Lisa’s experience, wisdom, and example of striving to live out the Gospel in every area of her life!
What made you want to work at the Ranch: I am thrilled that God has called me to use my passion for horses in service to Him! I love being a part of the Refuge Ranch community and encouraging others in their walk with the Lord.
One interesting fact about you: I was a stay at home/homeschool mom of 3 for the past 26 years, life-long lover of horses, and I play the banjo with my church worship team.
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: I enjoy spending time with my family, which includes 5 grandchildren, trail riding & working with my horses, bicycling with hubby Jim, gardening, and playing the piano.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Moose Tracks
Title: Founder, Executive Director
What made you want to work at the Ranch: Refuge is a culmination of my love for Jesus and His unrelenting mercy, my love for horses, and my passion to share the same freedom I have found with others who are hurting. I never could have imagined He would allow these things to come together the way they have at the Ranch. Every day here is a gift and I can’t imagine doing anything else!
One interesting fact about you: I have 7 kiddos! Life here is crazy and fun and never dull!
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: Herd kids, thrift shop, browse antique stores, and watch the sunset.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Coffee - specifically Daily Grind at Scoup Du Jour
Title: Adaptive Riding Director
Jen is the Director of our Freedom Reins special needs riding program. She is certified as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor through PATH International. We are so thankful for her unique skill set she brings to the team as well as her love for the kids and family she serves.
What made you want to work at the Ranch: I am most excited about working for an organization that is founded and focused on God’s grace and mercy. I am really looking forward to working with staff and volunteers who love Jesus as well as using my gift as a riding instructor to benefit the Adaptive Riding program participants!
One interesting fact about you: I am a minister’s wife and we have been married/doing ministry together for 11 years! We have two girls: Harper, 6 and Evyn, 4. My horse was a 10th wedding anniversary gift from my husband. We cancelled our anniversary cruise and bought the horse instead. His name is now...wait for it...Cancelled Cruise.
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: When I am not at the Ranch I am usually home with my two girls or helping out at our church. I teach 2s and 3s Sunday School and sing on our praise team.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but I also really like Caramel and Hot Fudge Sundaes!
Title: Lead Ranch Hand
Bekah joined us as a Ranch Hand in Spring of 2019. She quickly blew us away with her love for Jesus, her amazing work ethic, and her always-willing heart.
What do you love about working at the Ranch: The team of staff here! I have been so blessed and encouraged about being a part of this team!
One interesting fact about you: I am the oldest girl in a family of 10
Title: Ranch Hand
Esther came to the Ranch in the Spring of 2020. She is quiet, but don’t let that fool you! She is fiercely hard working, has a great sense of humor, and adores Jesus and sharing His love and hope with others!
What made you want to work at the Ranch: I love the ministry part, working outside, and being with the kids and horses.
One interesting fact about you: I am a hopeless book addict
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: I help out with our small family farm, read, and hang out with friends.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Moose Tracks
Title: Ranch Hand
What made you want to work at the Ranch: Since I was once a kid in sessions at the Ranch I was so excited to be on the flip side!
One interesting fact about you: I am a vegetarian!
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: I love to hang out with friends and work at my other job!
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Strawberry and Coffee! (Not together)
Liz started attending sessions at Refuge as an elementary student and we had the joy of walking alongside of her for many years. This year Liz came on staff as a seasonal Ranch Hand. What an incredible joy it has been to watch God bring her full circle as she now pours out the hope and healing she has received from Jesus into those coming behind her!
Title: Ranch hand
McKenna came to Refuge in the summer of 2020. Her determined heart, creativity, and love for the horses and kids at the Ranch is a gift. We are so excited to watch her grow in confidence and leadership!
What made you want to work at the Ranch:
I naturally have a heart of service, and a love for hard, fulfilling work. I was introduced to the Ranch at Lake Springfield Christian Assembly as missionaries many years ago. Recently, my father, Dr. Ren Bleem, has started to adjust the horses at the ranch. It is a perfect mix of faith and horses. I got hooked.
One interesting fact about you: I have a learning disability called Dyslexia.
What do you do when you're not working at Refuge: I work on art and pet my cats.
Favorite Flavor of ice cream: Lemon Ice cream is the best!