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Shelter Island students aid veterans’ ranch

James “Jimbo” Theinert has been able to combine two of his greatest passions — the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch and Shelter Island School’s new externship program — to make 2023 one of his best year’s ever.

Mr. Theinert is president of the organization that runs the ranch his family launched to celebrate the memory of his brother, 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, and serve other veterans and their families. Lt. Theinert gave his life in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010, to protect his troops.

The family turned its grief into action, creating the Strongpoint Theinert ranch in Magdalena, N.M., where those who serve now or in past years can get a respite and interact with others who understand their therapeutic needs.

This year, Mr. Theinert, a math teacher at the school, launched the externship program to offer students real life experience with companies and projects that augment their classroom lessons.

Six of the students participating in the program learned about the Strongpoint Theinert Ranch and devoted time to creating donation and volunteer forms, selecting photos and writing copy for an email blast to help raise funds to defray costs for those who participate in programs at the ranch and to contribute to expansion of the facilities.

“I really loved getting to connect these two areas of my life,” Mr. Theinert said.

The six students who created the email sent to supporters are 9th grader

Jackson Rohrer; 10th graders Harry Clark, Lionardo Napoles and Daniel Hernandez; 11th grader Marlon Huertas Maldonado; and 12th grader Susie Kane.

This year, the ranch hosted four retreats serving 54 veterans who have fought in conflicts in Vietnam, Beirut, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Each group that participates in a retreat takes on a service project. In August the project was to erect a 30-foot  flagpole for flag raising and lowering ceremonies marking the start and end of each retreat.

Since programs began in 2016, more than 100 veterans have participated in programs at no cost to them to heal and process past traumas. Many have returned for multiple programs and are training with the clinical team to become veteran “peer facilitators” to help others on their journeys to achieve post-traumatic growth.

“Words can’t express how my experience compared to what I expected,” one participant told Mr. Theinert. “I definitely didn’t expect to walk away with more friends, knowledge and a new life.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Mr. Theinert said between Feb. 11 and 17, a group of veterans, civilians and volunteers will be onsite to build a 30- by 40-foot deck on the west side of the barracks. Experienced carpenters who would like to volunteer to work on the project are invited to contact Mr. Theinert (see below).

“This new deck will provide opportunities for viewing beautiful desert sunsets, stargazing at famously dark skies, observing wildlife at our wildlife drinker, participating in yoga, meditation and group therapy sessions, all in a natural healing outdoor location,” Mr. Theinert said.

Another $15,000 is needed to cover remaining building expenses and volunteer transportation costs.

In addition to the upcoming deck construction, Strongpoint Theinert Ranch will be hosting a second annual staff development program in February to ensure all mental health professionals and volunteer peer facilitators are properly trained to deliver its programs.

Carpenters can reach out to Mr. Theinert at [email protected]. Contributions can be made on the organization’s website at www.strongpointtheinert.org.