New owners share plans for fmr. hunt club land

Jason and Maggie Dunn are on a mission to provide foster youth who have been the victims of abuse and neglect with a place that gives them love, care, support and healing, so they can find homes and families of their own.

And they plan to bring that mission to the picturesque horse country in northeastern Oxford Township.

Jason and Maggie Dunn, co-founders of the House of Providence in Detroit.
Jason and Maggie Dunn, co-founders of the House of Providence in Detroit.

“So much of their life has been ugly and we’re excited to show them they deserve beautiful things, too,” said Maggie, a therapist.

The Dunns are the founders of the Detroit-based House of Providence, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing “a therapeutic and familial environment for minors” in the foster care system who have been unable to find “a permanent family of their own,” according to the website www.thehouseofprovidence.org.

House of Providence recently purchased the 118-acre Hunters Ridge Hunt Club property, located at 3921 Barber Rd., near E. Davison Lake Rd., for $800,000.

The Dunns plan to eventually relocate and expand House of Providence’s operations from Detroit to the Oxford property.

“We just knew we wanted to be in horse country, farm country. It’s beautiful up there,” Maggie said. “Hunters Ridge is the only place we really wanted this whole time. It’s not like we looked at a bunch of different properties. That was it.”

Because a big part of their mission is to provide a family setting to help foster youth heal and learn how to trust others, the Dunns are not planning to build dormitories to house hundreds of kids.

Their plan is to eventually construct three ranch-style, residential houses, each sitting on parcels in “the 30-acre range,” according to Jason. Each would serve as separate housing for three groups of foster kids – girls, boys and disabled youth.

“Every home will be beautiful,” said Jason, a licensed minister.

The Dunns said each house would be capable of accommodating up to 10 kids, but they prefer to keep the numbers between six and eight.

“We stay small purposely,” Jason said.

He explained House of Providence’s goal is not to “warehouse” kids. Quite the contrary, the organization wants to help them become “whole” and “healthy” in a familial atmosphere, he said, so they can one day find a family of their own and not “have to live life alone.”

“Family is it – that’s what they need,” Maggie said.

Jason noted setting up the Oxford campus won’t happen overnight because there’s still lots of fund-raising that needs to be done in order to make it all happen.

“It will be a process,” he said. “I know it’s not (going to be) in six months or in three months.”

In addition to funding, the Dunns would need to obtain numerous approvals from the township including lot splits and a special land use permit, a requirement when there’s more than six foster kids being housed.

“We’re not in any rush,” Maggie said. “We want to just do it well.”

Who does House of Providence serve?

House of Providence is licensed through the state to serve foster youth ages 9 to 17, according to the Dunns. Currently, the organization serves only girls, but it plans to expand to boys and disabled youth with the Oxford campus.

House of Providence helps youth who have suffered “extreme abuse and neglect” and lack stability in their lives because they’ve been unable to find permanent homes and families. Maggie stressed that none of the youth House of Providence takes in have criminal backgrounds.

“They’re not bad kids,” she said. “They don’t have any juvenile justice history. They’re not delinquents. They haven’t done anything wrong. They’ve just been cast aside.”

These youth have either bounced from foster home to foster home or “been institutionalized because there’s not enough homes,” according to Jason.

“They’re not kids that cause trouble,” he explained. “They’re kids that nobody wants, nobody cares for.”

“They’ve just been totally let down and abandoned,” Maggie added.

Many of the children who are never adopted and age-out of the foster care system at 18 end up incarcerated, homeless, unemployed, pregnant or working in some area of the sex industry, according to the House of Providence website.

“Statistically, it’s ugly,” Jason said.

The Dunns have been foster parents themselves for many years and they saw how much older kids “struggle” in the system because it’s difficult for them to find permanent homes and families.

“Michigan is the third worst in the nation (when it comes to) the child welfare system,” Jason said.

“We felt compelled to be a solution for these kids who are languishing in Michigan’s foster care system (through) no fault of their own,” Maggie said.

Thus, House of Providence was established in 2012 to help foster kids and prevent them from having bleak futures.

“We just saw the suffering of these kids who hadn’t done anything wrong. They were just forgotten and invisible,” Maggie said. “That was the catalyst.”

“When you really look into the eyes of a child that has nobody, how can you not do something?” Jason said. “We wanted to be a part of the solution.”

Jason said it’s important for people to remember they are where they are “in life because somebody stopped, they invested, they loved us and they believed in us.”

“Every one of these children, that’s all they need.”

House of Providence works with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which provides referrals.

“I get emails all the time,” Maggie said. “We’re a very sought-after program because of our success rate and how well the girls do.”

But House of Providence doesn’t just take anyone. “I am extremely picky about who we’ll let come in,” Maggie explained. “I personally go out and meet and interview every kid.”

The main requirement for a foster youth to be accepted by House of Providence is she must want to be there.

Maggie said in order to be successful, there has to be “buy in” on the youth’s part.

Jason agreed.

“You have to want to be there or else, it’s chaos,” he said. “We’re not into running chaos.”

House of Providence is based in Detroit, but its residents are not limited by geographic location. “We don’t have girls just from Detroit,” Maggie said. “We have girls from all over (the state).”

She said they’ve come from Oakland and Macomb counties, Grand Rapids, the Lansing area and Bay City.

Jason noted it doesn’t matter where the girls come from. “It’s not about economics,” he said. “It’s just broken humanity.”

Current operations

House of Providence has a 7,500-square-foot facility in Detroit that can house up to 10 girls. Currently, eight girls live there, according to the Dunns, who noted they like to keep the size at about six to eight.

The building is situated on House of Providence’s very own little oasis amidst urban life. “We bought an entire city block (and) we created a beautiful outdoor space, so they get outside a lot,” Maggie said.

The property is fenced for the girls’ protection. Outside that fence, “it’s another world,” Jason said.

Life at House of Providence is designed to be just like it is in the average family home.

According to the Dunns, the girls sit around the table and eat meals together. They go to school via the Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA). They play sports, take swim lessons, participate in a church youth group, go to the movies and the mall, and engage in other “fun outings.”

“We just make (life) as normal as possible,” Maggie said. “We try to give them stability, a sense of family, (a feeling) that they’re not invisible, people love them.”

Maggie was very complimentary of the services provided by OVA.

“They have really closed the (educational) gaps for those girls and really helped them to gain so much ground,” she said.

The staffing at House of Providence is designed to give the girls as much support as they need and ensure they never feel alone.

“The girls have a lot of individual attention and they’re very well-mothered and nurtured by our staff,” Maggie said.

“We have staff 24 hours a day, so kids are never unsupervised,” Jason said. “There’s never a time that there’s not staff.”

There’s always at least three staff members on duty, according to the Dunns.

“We very much overstaff. Whatever the state minimums are, we go above and beyond that,” Maggie said.

“We definitely overstaff because you want to provide (for) and meet every need that’s out there,” Jason said.

Jason noted their staff is just as invested as they are in House of Providence’s mission. It’s not just a paycheck to them.

“They’re there because they believe in these kids,” he said. “They love them and they want to see them (be) successful.”

What are the girls like?

“They’re just normal kids who haven’t had the same opportunities as others,” Maggie said. “They’re not to be feared. They’re wonderful children who are resilient and strong and funny and kind.”

“They’re talented. They’re athletic. They’re incredibly smart,” Jason said.

He’s amazed they’re able to wake up with a smile every day after what they’ve been through. “They are some of the strongest individuals I’ve ever met in my life,” Jason said.

The Dunns believe it’s important for people to understand who these foster youth are before judging them.

“I think sometimes we create stereotypes and assumptions based out of ignorance,” Jason said. “We assume that anybody (who) isn’t like us or didn’t grow up like us, somehow there’s something wrong with them – we should be fearful of them.”

“I think it’s sad that people create assumptions without ever really getting the facts,” he added.

Success rate

According to the Dunns, the girls at House of Providence spend an average of about 18 months there before they’re placed with a family.

While there, the girls learn to “trust again” and to “accept the love of parents and lives (within) the confines of a family,” Maggie explained. “We just slowly transition them into family life.”

When asked what happens to the girls who don’t find families, the Dunns said that’s never happened at House of Providence.

“It’s amazing what consistent love (from) safe adults can do to stabilize a child,” Maggie said. “We are definitely the lucky ones to get to be in their life and walk (on) their journey of healing with them.”

“It’s amazing how the Lord always provides a family for every kid,” Jason said. “He says I’m a father to the fatherless and He really is.”

Making the move to Oxford

The Dunns are excited about bringing House of Providence to the 118-acre property in Oxford because of all the advantages and opportunities the kids will have living in a rural environment as opposed to Detroit.

Jason said just placing these youth in a country setting will greatly improve their state of mind and outlook on life because they no longer have to deal with the “stresses,” the “harshness” and the “chaos” of city life.

In Oxford, House of Providence’s youth will be able to enjoy nature.

“The outdoor experience allows kids to bond, (to) heal,” Jason said.

For example, out here, the kids will be able to benefit from equine therapy by riding and helping care for horses. “We can’t have horses where we are,” Jason said.

Maggie is looking forward to being able to expand the extracurricular opportunities for House of Providence youth via Oxford Schools’ athletic and fine arts programs.

Other than adding three houses to the property and whatever else is necessary to do that, such as a private road, the Dunns intend to keep it as natural-looking as possible.

“What you see is what’s always going to be,” Jason said. “Everything’s going to stay incredibly beautiful, just as it is.”

Natural beauty is a big reason they purchased the property, so “to eliminate that would be foolish on our part,” Jason said.

“You probably won’t even see the homes from the street,” he noted.

They do not plan to put a sign out front and Jason indicated their operation will be a very quiet one. “You probably won’t even know that we exist,” he said.

The Dunns plan to live on site in the existing two-story colonial house built in 1888.

“It’s in pretty rough shape, but we’ll renovate it with our own finances, not through the organization,” Maggie said.

 

12 Responses to "New owners share plans for fmr. hunt club land"

  1. wally   July 13, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    So awesome. Been to the property before. Not to hunt if course. Please let me know if there is anyway I can help or get the word out.

    Wally

    Reply
  2. Dawn Champagne-Knapp   July 14, 2016 at 12:05 am

    I am soooo pleased that you have chosen to help these particular children. Since I was a teenager in Lake Orion Senior High School, I have wondered and fantasized about being able to help them (your select age group, the unwanted) with my personal love of animals. I have always felt, knowing girls and horses, that my life experience and involvement with animals would be such a boon to them. Some children have a natural affinity with animals…..all kinds.
    I am a school bus driver in Lapeer. I don’t know what my position could be in their lives, but my knowledge of animals (Horses, dogs, chickens, goats, and veterinary care of the above) could be of some assistance. If I can be of any assistance, contact me. I don’t have financial help to offer, but maybe somewhere else. I have horses (draft) dogs, goats, chickens and a total farm atmosphere.
    Thank You
    Dawn Knapp

    Reply
  3. Elsie De Luca   July 14, 2016 at 12:28 am

    My Niece and Nephew, Maggie and Jay Dunn, are among the most loving people that I have ever met in my lifetime. And their dedication to these young people is certainly beautiful to behold. Their selflessness is such a Beacon of Light to all of us who want to see Christ’s Words in action, For Jesus said the world would know that “we are His Disciples by the way we love one another.”

    Our LORD also expressed a very powerful truth; that “whatever we do to these the least of our brothers, we have done unto Him.”

    So, please take a moment to go to the “House of Providence” website to see how you can become involved in blessing these young people without families.

    But most of all, please pray for their move to these beautiful acres in horse country where true healing may begin for these very special children who need so much love, both in their new home and in our community.

    Let’s welcome this Ministry with arms open wide! Then we too shall reflect The Words of Jesus.

    Blessings,
    Aunt Elsie

    Reply
  4. Aniela Bosca   July 14, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Anyone who meets Jay and Maggie can see their love for Jesus and others. It’s evident in what they do and how they consistently give of themselves. The stability that they give to these girls gives them the chance to see their value and redefine their self-worth. House of Providence being in Oxford will not only improve their restorative process, but in turn impact the community. When you rally around something so precious to the heart of God, how can you not be changed?

    Reply
  5. David Addinuff   July 15, 2016 at 2:43 am

    It’s a great project in the wrong place. An institution such as this would be fenced, now blocking a significant area of trails and land within a mile of the Metamora Hunt forever damaging the charactor of the area.foringve bern told the land would nott be able to support the horses they allud to wanting because of the years of lead shotgun pellets scattered over the property as it was used for sporting clay shooting with many stations. This lead would prevent grazing of animals and probably the water would be an issue. Services from Police, Fire , medical, even cable and internet are either not available or delayed. In winter the roads are often impassable for days. During other times you can’t pass unless very courteous and someone pulls over and stops or finds a drive or “wide” spot to stop. Add employees and support for a institution, you have traffic, cars that may not know courtesy passing or slowing for horses, etc. These people developed a great facility in Detroit but have only been in n operation a couple years. How much money went into the Drletroit house and why moving so soon? What happens here in a few years? This appears financial. The $800,000 for just the property could have purchased four homes in a properly zoned residential area and been up and running in quick time. This would make much more sense and not require the changes needed to start. Also factor in the substantiol tax loss and increased cost to the community. There would be less tax losd and fewer costs to the community in a suitably zoned area. Putting this institution in tbe midfle of prime farmland and large horse farms would diminish their vaue and negitively impact tbeir business.

    Put this in a properly zoned district on paved roads which are designed and planned for uses such as this. Put the money directly into buying homes they can live in now instead of a nice farmhouse on beautifum property for the Dunn’s to live in.

    Reply
  6. Ginny Benson   July 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    While the mission of this couple seems sincere, and any help these kids can get along the way is a blessing, the location for this institution is extremely ill planned and the Township not only will be losing income because everything this business does is tax free, but all the extra infrastructure that comes with them should be considered. They pay no property taxes yet our school system will be spending a minimum of $3,000 per kid to educate them, plus free laptops and free internet service (it’s not available in that area). And the roads there are narrow and nearly impassable in winter, more road work? And has anybody considered what bringing large groups of inner city people will do to the neighborhood? And the neighbors? Not to mention that this type of business is NOT ALLOWED in the Agricultural zoning that they’ve chosen for this institution! Is anyone thinking this through besides the neighbors they are inflicting this on?
    There are many places that would welcome a project like this, and all the money these people seem to have to spend, could really benefit a lot of places. Here, it will change the face of our hunt country, bring down property values, and could endanger local residents.

    Reply
    • TheRealDeal   November 20, 2017 at 8:51 am

      ginny,
      they are just trying to help all of these children that have no one in the world.

      Reply
  7. CLT   July 20, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Did I read endanger local residents? First before we comment can we read the ENTIRE article and not just what we want to see, that’s first. If this article was read properly you would see that the article said that the children they are serving were NOT delinquents. They are not murderers or criminals. They are CHILDREN. Innocent CHILDREN that have been abandoned and abused. Children that are looking for hope and some a family who they can trust and feel safe but yet you say…they could endanger local residents? Their experiences have made them scared of adults. They do not seek to put any adult in danger! Also reading is fundamental, the article stated in which it was detailed that the property would remain beautiful and well kept. Nothing about this vision was ill planned people. Don’t comments on what you failed to read and fail to know as FACT! What is a FACT is some of Your thoughts were ill thought through. Some of these comments are narrow minded, self serving and let me just say ignorant in nature (just being truthful–re-read your own comment). Instead of looking at negatives, how about the positives? How this actually will positively impact the neighborhood, children’s lives, their families and generations. Some of these comments are so focused on money yet the interesting thing is that your money isn’t being affected by this vision. But what do I know. I’m just a commenter who just so happen to see foolish comments and decided to correct some of the ignorance here. Many blessings to this vision and the future. I look forward to how many of you who have said these silly things, failing to see how you can support this vision, are actually left looking at your face needing to be picked up from the floor as you watch in awe of how all of this will come together.

    Reply
  8. Elsie De Luca   July 26, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    We need to remember these powerful Words of Jesus from Matthew 25:

    “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne.

    All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.

    “Then The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

    For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘LORD, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You as a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’

    ” Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘LORD, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’

    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Reply
  9. Renee Atkinson   August 8, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    So wonderful!!! My father and his 4 brothers were foster children during the depression. They were accepted into the rural community they lived in and were sport stars in high school, 3 went on to serve in WWII where we lost Uncle Tony during the Battle of the Bulge. Their legacy includes doctors, school teachers, police officers, health care workers–all hard working individuals. Thank you Maggie and Jay, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know!

    Reply
  10. JR   August 10, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Please stop calling it an “institution”. Please read the whole article and understand what this truly is.

    Reply
  11. Dustin Lee Hoye   November 20, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Congratulations!!! What a steel. While being in foster care myself. Trust is one of the most important things you can teach to the adult youth and to others but I wouldn’t say it to be number one. Being that I been in in foster care until I was 20 the most important thing to teaching young adults or to anyone going threw foster care is to believe in themselfs because that’s where it starts. It’s not about having nice things or thinking you deserve materialistic things. Its about acknowledging Each person is unique in there own individuals ways. Trust yourselfs because you can be the one to shine in the mist of darkness.At the end of life, how far we have evolved and the love in our hearts is all that matters.

    Reply

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