Circle C and CEC: Partners in Cooperation

photo of Sam Coleman of Circle C Ranch


The first time Sam and Sara Coleman drove under the wooden Circle C Ranch arch, it felt like home. Since they were first married, they dreamed of living in the country, and they both felt called to operate a youth camp. Now, their dreams were beginning to look like a reality, and it seemed too good to be true.

"We met with Trish Lenihan, who owned the ranch and the surrounding acres and told her our vision for the area. Everything we talked about matched up with her vision, and we instantly knew this would be the answer to our prayers," remembers Sam.

Sam is now the executive director at Circle C Ranch, which rests in a scenic valley ten miles north of Bismarck along Highway 83. He leads a board of directors committed to bringing life back to the ranch, and according to Sam, "creating a win with the community, with organizations like Capital Electric, and most importantly, with the Lord."

Founded by Trish Lenihan in the 1970’s, Circle C Ranch was an interdenominational horse and rodeo youth camp that engaged area youth in horsemanship camps, trail rides, wagon trains and more. The Christ-centered camp provided young people with training in rodeo events like calf roping, bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding. It also brought kids together to talk about their faith. Unfortunately, in the 1980’s, the ranch experienced a period of dormancy and fell into disrepair.

Recently, the founding vision of the camp was reignited, and there has been a rebirth at Circle C Ranch. Sam is leading the way to bring back something Trish and the new board of directors believe in strongly – a Christ-centered experience like no other. And, he has big plans. Circle C Ranch will be home to a variety of activies, including day camps and Christmas festivities, and Sam hopes to plant

a memorial orchard and build a ropes course. He also dreams of offering mission trips and other adventures, like backpacking.

Capital Electric Cooperative (CEC) has provided electricity to the ranch since its inception. When asked to do its part in the rebirth of the ranch, the co-op stepped up.

After a visit with Ranch Foreman Mitch Griess, CEC’s Assistant Staking Engineer Beau Townsend started the wheel rolling toward some much needed electrical repairs. First on the list was an old transformer that needed to be replaced. Mitch’s other request was for some help setting four light poles in the north parking lot behind the big barn.

The parking lot would be used in December for the Circle C Christmas event that is held the first three weekends in December. Operations Supervisor Rick Dressler arranged for a bucket truck and some lineman to head out to the ranch to set the poles and hook up the electricity to the lights.

"It was an easy job for our guys, but meant the world to the ranch and to those people using that parking lot on those dark winter evenings in December. We had been looking for some great community projects for our guys to work on, and this one seemed to fit very well," says Rick.

It didn’t stop there. CEC’s membership in the Rural Development Finance Corporation (RDFC) enabled the co-op to provide a $1,000 grant to the ranch, which is being used to beef up other electrical facilities. Owned by North Dakota’s electric and telecommunications cooperatives, RDFC is a nonprofit finance and development corporation that encourages economic diversification and community vitality through the generation of funding that supports sustainable asset building.

CEC hopes these efforts will help revitalize Circle C Ranch and provide families with a place to worship, learn and play.

One of the seven cooperative principles that guides CEC is ‘Concern for Community.’ Circle C Ranch could improve the quality of life for many co-op members. That’s why CEC and Circle C Ranch are working together, in cooperation, to bring back a part of western history and provide for new opportunities for youth to learn and share their faith.

Visit the Circle C Ranch web site at to learn more about their mission and upcoming events.


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