Resident Ranchers, Julie and Kelly, stand in front of a window at Rainbow Acres and pose for a picture. Rainbow Acres is a residential Christian community for adults with developmental disabilities. Some of the neurodiverse residents are diagnosed with autism, down syndrome, adhd, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other disorders.

On a rainy January morning, we’re sitting down with Kelly and Julie to talk about life at Rainbow Acres and the joy of volunteering. 


RA: How long have the two of you been at Rainbow? 

K: I think I’ve been at Rainbow for almost 14 years. 

J: In June, it will be 20 years.  

RA: Twenty years! Wow. And 14. That’s amazing. Thanks for being a part of Rainbow for so long. Where did you come from? 

J: Phoenix. 

K: I’m from Manhattan Beach, California. It’s part of the Los Angeles area, but it’s a beach town. 

RA: What helped you decide to join us? 

K: My mom said it was the best place she could find on the internet. She’d look at a lot of different places and liked Rainbow the best. Overall I’m very glad I moved here. Rainbow has become a second home.  

J: It wasn’t safe for me to have a place in Phoenix. I have family in Yarnell, but there wasn’t anything to do there. Someone told my relatives about Rainbow, and I came here. 

RA: What’s your favorite part of living here? 

K: I can develop at my own pace and not feel stressed. Everybody’s pretty nice. Of course, you’ll always find something challenging no matter where you go, but we work through things. I like how Rainbow is a Christian community, so I can express my faith here. They have barn animals which I can be around. That’s important to me. It’s a place I feel safe.  

J: I enjoy the Rancher Vacations and the outings. I like living in the apartment. It helps me feel good about myself and to feel independent.  

RA: What activities are you involved in? 

K: Classes. I help at the barn. I enjoy weaving and painting. 

J: I do weaving. Landscape classes. We study climate change. I take Animal Awareness. I do computer. 

RA: What do you enjoy in your free time? 

J: Watch Murder She Wrote and Emergency. Do word finds and crosswords. Look up houses for sale on my computer and look at the pictures. That’s pretty neat. 

K: I like to read books. I watch movies sometimes when I can sit still. I learned how to knit in 2022. So I like to knit now—diamond art and painting by numbers. I like to keep a project going. 

RA: In your time here, what would you say is the best lesson you’ve learned? Or the best personal growth you’ve accomplished? 

J: I’ve improved my self-image. Feeling better about myself and being positive. 

K: I can express myself better. I’m more self-aware. My parents notice my better self-awareness. I’ve also learned to function better in different sets of rules. There are expectations here that are different than expectations at home. I’ve learned to adjust and be successful with both. 

RA: In your time with us, you’ve both worked off ranch, and you’ve volunteered off ranch. Can you tell me a little about your experiences? 

K: I volunteered at the Verde Valley Humane Society for seven years. Then, I got another volunteer job at a local veterinarian office. I’ve wanted to work in a vet office since grade school. So I did both for a while, but the vet’s office eventually hired me.  I worked there for three years before they had a fire and Covid hit, and I had to stop. 

J: I’ve worked at Sedona Recycling. I went to Kachina Point. In the laundry. In 2013 until now, I started working at the Park Service. In 2003, I started volunteering at, well, now it’s Haven Health in Camp Verde. I had to stop because of Covid, but I’m going through the process to go back. 

RA: What locations do you work at with the Park Service, Julie? 

J: I used to be at Tuzigoot National Monument. I sometimes help at the Well, but mostly I work at Montezuma Castle National Monument here in Camp Verde. 

RA: Do you have a favorite kind of dog, Kelly? 

K: I grew up with Retrievers. I think if I could get my own dog, I would get a Flat-coated Retriever. They are like Golden Retrievers but black, like Labs. 

RA: When both of you worked and/or volunteered, what types of things did you do? 

K: Laundry! And helping to disinfect. At the animal shelter, I did a lot of socializing. There’s something so satisfying about seeing an animal who comes in all shy and just opens up right in front of your eyes, and you know that you played a part in that. It’s just amazing.  I loved that part. Of course, some animals were afraid and challenging. They were harder to reach. Eventually, they started coming around. 

At the vet office, I learned to properly hold the animals while they were being worked on in case the techs needed an extra hand. It was a learning process. I sterilized surgical instruments and restocked supplies.  

J: At the Park Service, I help pick up trash in the parking lot and on the trail. I wipe down the signs when it rains. I help people find where they are going. I tell them about the cliff dwelling. At Haven, I work in the laundry. I’ve helped stock gloves. I take people to and from lunch, and I eat with them—some of them I know from other places. 

RA: When you volunteer, do you feel how great it is that you are contributing to the community? 

J: Yeah. 

K: I know I was helping the people who worked there because they all had so much to do. By socializing the animals, I helped their future people. At the vet, I felt like I was helping the community because I was helping with people’s pets. 

RA: How much do you love it when volunteers come to Rainbow Acres? 

K: Everyone who comes to volunteer is so nice. I appreciate that they put in all their effort and time to help us out. They are friendly with us. Everything they do for Rainbow is amazing. 

J: I like our volunteers. It’s interesting that they come from many different places. 

RA: If there was someone out there considering volunteering with us, what would you say to them? 

J: I would say, “It’d be good to have you. Come, volunteer.” 

K: Volunteering is worth it. It makes you feel good; it helps other people out. It’s a win/win situation. Rainbow Acres is a really cool place. It’s unique. It’s an awesome place, and every volunteer we’ve had so far mentions how much they enjoy it. They always say they love it here, so if you’re thinking about volunteering at Rainbow, you should do it.