I had the opportunity to spend some time with my good friend Tony Stapleton the other day. I’ve known Tony for 10 years and it’s always a pleasure to visit with him.
Tony is the owner of TNT Ranch, a home for addicts and the homeless, which is often the same group. He called me and asked me to come out and see what he has going on at the Ranch, which is located on Allen Road in between Long Beach and Gulfport. It is on the same road as the Whispering Pines Doggie Dude Ranch.
TNT Ranch has been helping people get back on their feet for about 20 years. It’s grown considerably over the years, much the same way the area’s drug problem and number of homeless has grown.
“Used to be that all we saw was people with problems with alcohol and marijuana and cocaine and crack,” he said. "But that has changed so much. We see a lot of people addicted to meth and heroin and bath salts and spice -- it’s a different game than it used to be.”
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Tony’s mission at the Ranch is simple: He wants to get people in off the streets and make them feel safe and secure and then help get them their lives back together.
People come to the Ranch who have lost jobs, family, houses and self respect. They are broken.
“I just want to get people off the street and give them a bed to sleep in and a hot meal and let them clear their heads,’ he said. “People have to get out of that fog from drugs and that takes some time.”
The latest addition at the Ranch, Tony’s pride and joy, is a 14-bedroom dormitory that is quickly nearing completion. All that is needed is the money for the building’s sprinkler system, which, unfortunately, isn’t cheap.
“We have to come up with $23,000 to get the sprinklers installed,” he said. “Once that is done, we could have the new wing open in about 90 days.”
Tony is soft-spoken and laid back and he wears numerous hats at the Ranch. He’s the CEO of the company as well as a father-figure, counselor, manager, friend, brother and confidant. He told me he tries to spend his early morning hours quietly with his family because once his presence is seen at the Ranch, everybody wants a few minutes of his time.
And he was telling the truth. As he gave me a quick tour of the new building, he was approached several times, with each request beginning with the words, “Mr. Tony.”
And he listened to everyone who brought a request before him, answering them with a smile, to let them know they are loved, because he truly loves people.
“I just love to help people,” he said. “That’s what we have to get this new building finished. When people need help, they need help -- we don’t have time to be worrying about who has money or who has insurance -- we need to get them off the streets.”
And now, Tony and TNT Ranch need your help. Big Pig BBQ at 6277 Beatline Road in Long Beach will be donating all of its profits to the Ranch today through Sunday.
You can also make donations directly to the Ranch here.
Tony Stapleton has dedicated his life to helping others. As the hand-painted sign in his office says, “he is a man who loves alcoholics and addicts.”
Jeff Clark is a staff writer at the Sun Herald.