Rainbow Acres was founded in 1974, but existed as a dream long before.
Founder Ralph Showers grew up to be an accomplished American Baptist pastor, but spent much of his childhood struggling through school with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. At an American Baptist Church youth conference, Showers was inspired by Clarence Jordan, a farmer and New Testament Greek scholar, who founded Koinonia Farm, a religious community in southwest Georgia. Showers dreamed of creating a place where people with disabilities could lead lives guided by purpose, dignity and spirit.
Despite daunting physical, emotional and operational setbacks, Showers cultivated his dream and established Rainbow Acres– a special place where progress occurs every day among its resident Ranchers. Over a 20-year period, Showers served as President and CEO and created this uniquely-rural residential community for adults with developmental disabilities in the beautiful Verde Valley, just south of Sedona. Showers’ philosophy of the “whole life concept” involved providing for all aspects of development.
In 1996, the Reverend Gary W. Wagner became President and CEO and continued building on Showers’ vision. With Wagner’s leadership, Rainbow Acres’ facilities and programs have grown and blossomed, enhancing the quality of life for the Ranchers. Rainbow Acres has developed programs that are “firsts” in this type of residential community: the Clavinova Connection program, which uses Yamaha programmable keyboards to deliver music therapy, and the Fine Arts program, which provides painting instruction from two renowned Sedona artists, revealing each Rancher’s hidden artistic talents and giving them new ways to interpret the world through art.
From a vocational perspective, Ranchers wanted to pursue off-campus jobs and volunteer activities. In response, the Vocational Program was introduced in the 1990s and has continued to expand with job skills training for both on-ranch and off-ranch employment. Today, many Ranchers work on the ranch and in the surrounding communities. The Job Skills Courses in which Ranchers can enroll utilize Project Discovery, a nationally-renowned vocational training and workplace transition program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Since 2001, Rainbow Acres’ campus has expanded from 13 to 50 acres, with many new buildings that benefit the Ranchers, including 12 modern homes that each accommodate 10 residents; two four-plex apartment buildings for more independent residents; the Palmer Community Center for dining, events and everyday activities; two full-scale greenhouses for growing vegetables; and a barn for the horses and other animals. The real estate value of Rainbow Acres’ land and facilities has grown to almost $20 million today.
The ranch, once dotted by double-wide trailers and a grain barn, has grown into a state-of-the-art facility that houses an entire community in beautifully-furnished homes and offers a wide variety of life-enriching experiences.