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Director finds home at boys' lodge
Bald Ridge offers programs, skills
John Haigler

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John Haigler has been busy since he arrived at Bald Ridge Lodge in August.

"My main thing was to make sure that everything was running smoothly when I came and took over," said Haigler, executive director. "We are in that place now."

The lodge, which opened in July 2008, is a nonprofit organization that temporarily houses "at-risk" boys ages 12 to 17 in Forsyth County.

Some of the residents are referred to the facility through the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, while others are placed there by Forsyth County Juvenile Court.

"We are first and foremost a residential facility," Haigler said. "I would like to see us continually add more and more programs for the kids here like after-school programs, mentoring programs and tutoring, which we're doing now."

He said he hopes to provide offerings that ensure the boys receive needed services, such as health care and tutoring, after they return to their homes.

For Haigler, 32, the opportunity to work with youth was an incentive to take the job, previously held by Gary Stout and Jill Trammell. Amanda Prior, the lodge's human service provider, has filled in during the interims.

After earning his masters degree in public administration from Kennesaw State University, Haigler was a child protective services investigator with Bartow County DFCS.

He has also worked as a substance abuse and mental health counselor for the Highland Rivers Community Service Board and most recently he managed residential sites for Southern Resources Consultants. The private company manages group homes for adults with disabilities.

Haigler said the job required him to travel to different sites through the week.

"Before I was managing a facility for a couple of hours a week on site," he said. "I can actually be here and interact with the boys along with the management and administrative duties."

Haigler added that his new job comes with a lot of responsibility as well.

"I have some great supporting staff that does awesome work and I could not do it without them, but if something goes wrong here, I'm the one that answers to the board of directors," he said. "I like it. It's great."

The lodge is licensed by the state to house up to 12 boys. Ten are currently living there.

Haigler said at least 25 percent of the facility's budget comes from charitable contributions. A golf tournament, poker run and other fundraisers are in the works for this year.

While staying at the lodge, the boys go to school and learn basic household chores and life skills.

"Some of the residents who come here, they don't even know how to properly bathe, for example, or they don't know how to shave or do laundry," Haigler said.

He added that the boys were scheduled to attend a class Saturday on proper tooth brushing and flossing techniques.

"Things that we take for granted are things that some of them never learned where they are coming from," he said.

After school the boys are required to participate in daily enrichment time, where they meet with tutors or engage in some other type of educational project.

Residents are also taken for outings, given they have shown they can behave and follow the facility's rules.

Barbara Kastner, the lodge's program coordinator, said residents toured local businesses during spring break last year.

She said they have received gift cards to local movie theaters and restaurants, thanks to donations from the community.

The lodge also attempts to keep the outings educational, with trips to museums and the Georgia Aquarium. She said several professional sports teams have provided tickets.

Haigler said the facility will soon post a wish list, containing items needed for the lodge.