Shortly after Scott and Lori Roth’s 22-year-old son, Ben, confided in them that he had been abused as a child, he ended his life. The Roths were heartbroken and struggled to pick up the pieces after the loss of their son.
But today, Ben’s generous, caring nature lives on in the form of a two-story home on Main Street that shelters families as they get back on their feet after overcoming abuse.
With the help of LaCasa Inc. and a dedicated team of volunteers, the Roths renovated the house from top to bottom in memory of their son.
“Ben was a little boy when he was hurt, and we figured the best way to reach kids is to find moms with children,” Scott Roth said. “We knew we would eventually, down the line, help a kid who has been in that situation.”
“They are two of the most generous, kind human beings,” said Jennifer Doty, executive director of the women’s shelter. “They just are. I can’t say enough good things about them. They’re just a great example of how I wish so many others were. They had something tragic happen to them and they turned it into something positive to help someone else.”
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Grant and her son have lived in the Little House That Ben Built for about nine months, but before that, they spent time at the Elkhart County Women’s Shelter and Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network, which takes in homeless families.
“I did not know when I went there what it was going to be like, so it was very frightening,” Grant said.
But it ended up being a blessing in disguise.
“All the people were very kind and supportive and loving toward us,” Grant said. “They were accepting, and they helped us so much.”
The shelters connected Grant to resources, including government assistance, to help her find a home in Goshen, but even with the extra boost, she still struggled and wasn’t sure if she would be able to keep up with bills.
Just when Grant thought the odds were stacked against her, the women’s shelter reached out to her one more time and she learned that she and Zethan would be moving into the Little House That Ben Built.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I never would have thought to ask for something this great for me and my son. It’s very humbling to be given the kind of help and kind of care and concern that Scott and Lori have shown to Zethan and I.”
Grant was stunned the first time she entered the house.
“I could hardly believe my eyes,” she said. “For the first month or more staying here, it was kind of like ’pinch me, pinch me. Is this really happening?’ I didn’t expect anything like this.”
LEARNING HER OWN STRENGTH
Grant has been writing letters to President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for about four years, pouring her heart out to them, telling them about her situation and the people who have helped her along the way. Her most recent letter to the White House told the story of the Little House That Ben Built and how it has changed her life.
Hanging on a wall near her kitchen is a framed letter signed by the Obamas.
“Your gesture serves as a reminder of the kindness of the American people, and we are grateful for your support of our shared vision for our nation’s future,” the letter reads.
Living in the house has helped Grant gain a sense of independence, regain confidence and rebuild her self-esteem.
“What Scott had told me, he said, ‘You define how you define yourself,’” Grant said. “That was really profound to me because I’ve been through a lot of harsh experiences and instead of relying on those experiences to define me, it really gave me the perspective so I could have the freedom to be who I’d like to be, not a victim.”
The women’s shelter has also been a source of strength.
“The women’s shelter tells us that people treat us how we allow them to treat us, and that really helped me in a lot of ways too,” Grant said. “A lot of people have been there for me and given me support in different ways and shared their experiences with me to the point where I didn’t feel isolated or alone with what I had experienced, so now I really feel comfortable with my new life.”
Grant said leaving an abusive relationship was the best move she could make for her son.
“He just blossomed and opened up,” she said. “He talks like crazy now, and he expresses himself and he’s confident in what he can do, his abilities.”
LIFE AFTER THE LITTLE HOUSE
Grant has put a lot of work into rebuilding her life since moving into the Little House That Ben Built. She has taken classes at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce to learn how to launch her own business – Generation Cleaning Company – and Roth has connected her with people in the city’s business community.
“I think that’s the key,” Roth said. “We want people to surround her, help her get back on her feet.”
Grant is already dreaming of what her life will be like once she leaves the house and moves into a place of her own. She wants to grow her business and would love to live in the Hawks Arts and Enterprise Center, a historic Goshen building that LaCasa is transforming into live-work spaces for artists and entrepreneurs. She would also like to go to school to study art and psychology to become an art therapist.
“It’s important for us to see someone have that opportunity,” Roth said. “She’s gone through some rough times, and things have happened in her life that have been difficult, but she wants to seize the moment now that she has a chance to do it. This is something I know Ben would really be happy about.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.