STEWARTVILLE — Bob Bardwell says miracles come in many forms.
Recently, he said, he witnessed about 400 hours worth of miracles. Bardwell, owner of Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, an outdoors activity center designed for individuals facing physical or mental challenges, said with COVID-19 shuttering the ranch for the summer at least, a lot of necessary work was completed thanks to volunteers from Superior Mechanical in Rochester.
"Jim Gander from Superior Mechanical called and said he needed a volunteer opportunity for some of his employees.," Bardwell said. "They did everything from shoveling horse manure to cutting, stacking and splitting firewood for us."
Craig Curley, a co-owner and general manager at Superior Mechanical, said when business slowed down due to the pandemic, he had to lay off a handful of employees. But after receiving assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program, those workers were hired back. Still, the work was still slow, so Curley and Gander decided the solution was to send those workers out on a volunteer job.
Every day was different, Bardwell said. From picking rocks and clearing trails to installing some drinking fountains, the volunteers had a new set of tasks every morning and helped clean up the grounds and fix up the buildings a bit to make Ironwood Springs ready for whatever is next.
That, Bardwell said, is still up in the air. Due to social distancing guidelines, the ranch has had to cancel its summer programs, the biggest of which is the National Wheelchair Sports Camp at the ranch.
However, the event will continue this summer with organizers taking the events to athletes at their home sites in about 20 states and holding a virtual event.
In the meantime, Bardwell said with no income at the ranch, the volunteer work was greatly needed and appreciated, and now there is a ranch with about 25 or 30 horses and a couple of dozen campsites that, at the very least, will be ready for campers once the COVID-19 restrictions fall away.
Bardwell said this is not the first time Superior Mechanical has donated time and talent to make Ironwood Springs a better place for its mission.
"It shows the heart of the community for the ranch," Bardwell said. "There's probably a lot of places they could go. We've got no income right now, so volunteers are going to be the heart of the ranch."