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Meet Chico Goff of Green Oak Ranch in Vista

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chico Goff.

Chico, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Green Oak Ranch has a long history of helping people. The 140 acre valley first served as the home of the Kumeyaay and Luiseno Indian tribes, In the late, 1800’s the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach stopped in the in the lush oak field valley. The property would be known as ‘Camp Vista’ from 1935 to 1941 when it was part of the nationwide network of sites created of the Civilian Conservation Corps to help unemployed young men and war veterans. The CCC camp was one of the first programs instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Great Depression. President Roosevelt established “Camp Vista” as a work program for unemployed young men. Later, Camp Vista played a role in the military defense effort by housing four Missouri National Guard companies who had the responsibility for patrolling the Pacific coastline from northern San Diego County to northern Los Angeles County.

In the late 1990’s the Union Rescue Mission had decided to put the property up for sale. In 1998, local businessman Arie de Jong purchased Green Oak Ranch and reinvested in the property and the program so Green Oak Ranch could continue being a camp in retreat center for young people, churches, and Scout Troups as well as a place where men and women who struggle with addiction learn to walk sober with Jesus in the real world.

Personally, I have spent close to three decades as an ordained minister helping people in church ministry in San Diego North County. After planting a church in San Marcos and caring for a church family there for 16 years, I would go on to work with homeless family in North County for two years. While I loved the working with the homeless and helping them finding permanent supportive housing, the money simply ran out for me to stay. My journey of finding ways to help people would then lead me to Green Oak Ranch. I came on staff this last October (2017) as the Executive Director.

Our mission at Green Oak Ranch is simple: Every Life Transformed. Our passion is offer a world-class camp and retreat venue to our community that is staff primarily by people who are in recovery. It is an amazing model. Who would have thought that former addicts would be helping transform a place where kids to come and find out how to be the leaders of tomorrow!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The transition for working with people in the church, to helping homeless families, to now working with recovering addicts and running a retreat center certainly has its challenges. Since I was 22 (I am now 51), I have worked with non-profits who have a mission to try and help transform lives. There are always struggles. Sometimes people don’t want to change. Sometimes there is not enough money to do the work that is needed. Sometimes there is not enough help or expertise available to make the changes necessary. These battles exist in virtually every non-profit who is trying to make a difference.

What is consistent are the people. What is common are their struggles. I have worked in churches, with the homeless, and now with recovering addicts. Even though the environments have changed, the struggles and needs of the people remain much the same.

The biggest struggle is trying to meet the needs of so many with the resources available. We do our best.

Please tell us about Green Oak Ranch.
As I have tried to explain, the common thread in the fabric of Green Oak Ranch’s history is a story of helping people. The form of the help has changed from providing substance for living, to respite station on a long journey, a place of training for young men and recovery for those who have served, to a place of peace for young children to learn about their Creator, to place of recovery for men and women who struggle. The mission has be consistent…help transform lives.

What makes Green Oak Ranch unique?
We provide 140 acre retreat site that is located in town. When you on property you wouldn’t know CostCo is a few minutes and Starbucks is even closer! We have cabins that sleep over 250 and a Dining Hall that serves professionally prepared meals for all in one sitting. We have a history of helping people that has continued for well over 130 years.

What makes Green Oak Ranch special as a retreat site?
First, I think our location allows us to be close to everything but the environment we provide is miles apart form what you’d expect. Second, I think our prices some of the lowest you will find as for a retreat site. Third, we are perhaps the only retreat site in the County that can handle 1000 people camping for a single event. We provide camping, cabins, and RV sites so a group can all together in tents, cabins, or glamping. Whatever matches their comfort levels. But lastly, we are the only camp and retreat site that is run primarily by people who have made the heroic decision and effort to recover from their addictions.

What makes us unique as a recovery center?
There are certainly many in the County. What makes us unique is that we have a faith based approach to recovery. We recognize this isn’t for everyone but we certainly love to share with people the role God would like to play in their lives and how He’d like help in their recovery. What is also unique is our cost. We charge only $400 per month. Other programs are free and some charge thousands per month. None can offer a 9 month program on a 140 acres. Fees include room and board and all program fees. We think it’s a good deal. Lastly, what makes us unique is the social-work model. We are not a perfect program and we don’t fit everyone. But, we believe that we can learn some of life’s most family lessons by living in community. We also believe that recovery requires us to find our purpose in life. One of our purposes in life is to be productive and serve others. The Ranch provide people that opportunity while they work their recovery program.

What am I most proud of about Green Oak Ranch?
We have a long history of helping people. The Ranch is a place of second and third chances in life. It is a place where many find the help and hope they didn’t think they deserved or would ever discover.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory would be shared by many… play baseball with my father.


  • On the recovery side, Green Oak Ranch fees are $400 a month.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Chico Goff

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