The image of friends awkwardly yet persistently lowering a paralytic man through a roof in order to usher their friend into the presence of Jesus. It’s a beautiful picture: an image that describes the journey of the Elder family that intensified just over a year ago. And that image describes the journey of 40+ families with special needs adults as the Through the Roof Community campus began to take shape.
If you are receiving this first prayer letter, you likely know a little or even a lot about these efforts. In fact, you have likely been a part of these efforts and this ministry; in prayer, in finances, in sweat equity, in your loving concern as you have asked how the efforts are going—and perhaps all of the above.
David’s House, Benjamin’s Hope, Olivia’s Gift—all of these are more recognizable local communities for special needs adults. You may have heard of them. Very few families have it on their bucket list to create a campus for special needs adults. Yet the demand is immense, and the supply is sorely insufficient so David, Benjamin, Olivia—and now Brendon—have families and friends who set out to create housing and living spaces that also provide meaning and purpose for an underserved community. There is no road map to make this happen. In large part because these efforts are not financially sustainable entrepreneurial ventures. So, together, we are learning as we go.
Since we didn’t set out to create a new non-profit organization and build a “brand” around it, there is some confusion as to what we call the place. Here is how many refer to it.
Brendon’s House • The Schoolhouse • The Elder’s Old House • The Farm • The Krupp House • Growing Roots • Through The Roof • The Rockford House
Here is a quick chronology of events to unpack the journey as well as the many and varied names of this endeavor that represent layers to that journey.
- In the Spring of 2021, the Elder family stumbled across a listing for a home off of 10 Mile; unfamiliar territory for us. Hence the oft referenced name The Rockford House. (“It’s near the Rockford exit” rolls off the tongue easier than describing the Plainfield Charter Township House technical location).
- This “home” was actually a small vintage school house back in the day (1953) and converted to a home 40 years ago. It’s very unique. Hence referring to it as The Schoolhouse. The engraved cement moniker over the entrance still displays Goff School.
- In August 2021, Cindy, Camden, Brendon and I moved from the Elder family home of 20+ years to this new property as we felt the Lord calling us to begin a campus for special needs adults. Hence referring to it as The Elder’s House.
- This 3 acre property on Krupp Avenue in Comstock Park came with a big barn; just down the road from Krupp Farms and the Krupp Family; this farm and the Krupp family are kind of thing in this area. So The Krupp House is a more recognizable location indicator for many who have a tradition of picking raspberries and other fresh produce down the road.
- In July and August, many friends and family helped in many and varied ways to get the home and barn ready for a special needs campus—both a home of 4 special needs men and a house mentor, as well as a campus and programming where these men and many others can find meaning, purpose, and community. The name Through the Roof Community is our non-profit name that describes our purpose for both sides of the campus; creating a community that exemplifies the care and concern for those who need it the most.
- One month later—in September 2021—we welcomed Growing Roots to our campus. Growing Roots is a day program for special needs adults founded by Jessica Roost, Cindy’s sister. Jessica’s vision for Growing Roots emanated from her unique and profound relationship with Brendon. Growing Roots is a horticultural and animal nature-based opportunity for special needs adults serving all individuals with all manner of special needs and their families. Over 40+ individuals/families find meaning and purpose through Growing Roots each week because of the dedication of Jessica, Kenzie and many other friends of Growing Roots. Hence many individuals referring to the campus as Growing Roots.
- Since animal therapy is part of the Growing Roots program, we welcomed 6 goats and 2 donkeys to our campus. And we are quite certain that chickens will become part of the landscape here soon? For city folk like us, I must tell you that looking out the kitchen window every morning to goats staring at us is, well, different. At any rate, that is why this unique space is referred to as The Farm.
- In February 2022, Cindy, Camden, and I moved to Dutton. We purchased a regular fixer upper and now work feverishly on making that our home. By the way, the amount of friends, family, time, energy and resources helping us in that transition…we simply have no words to express our gratefulness!! We call this our Hammond House. It’s right across from Cook’s Hot Dog’s. There isn’t much in Dutton, so Cook’s is a bit of a major landmark in the heart of Dutton; and a nine iron shot from our front porch.
- On that same day, February 26, Nate VanderWal moved in with Brendon. Nate is the House Mentor. Nate and Serena, our wonderful friend and board member, have been careful and thorough in identifying additional families who have become part of this expanded community.
- During the Summer, Brendon had two new friends move into the home. Cindy and I have been ultimately clear that we have never done this before, never really set out to do this, but felt called and available to figure this out with God’s guidance, His provision, and with families that are equally motivated to figure it out together—as a community. We are off to a great start, and we are grateful to have families have joined us in the journey.
We are grateful that you are part of our community. Right now we simply want to ask you to pray with us:
- For Nate, Brendon, Peter, and Shaun—that this community of men would blend well and the transition from the current living arrangements would be well received by all.
- For Nate as he works with the families and the men to discern how he can best come alongside to encourage these men to flourish and thrive.
- For the financial underwriting to make some needed improvements on the campus. While we believe this endeavor to be largely sustainable without fundraising year over year, it will take some additional financial investment for the next few years to make needed improvements on the campus. Our goal is to be mortgage free with some minor capital replacement and improvements This year-end our goal is $40,000 toward that goal.
- For a handyman or team of people to maintain the not-so-gently-used facilities on this campus. And to tackle the many worth projects and facility renovations that should be tackled over the next 8 months to be good hosts to a worthy community.
- The Rockford House is actually in a township that has vividly demonstrated its unwillingness to work with efforts like ours. Prayer for receptive hearts on behalf of township leadership is appreciated..
- Starting an endeavor like this…in the margins of an otherwise full work-life…is a bit of a challenge.
I am always available for coffee with anyone that you might want to point in our direction that might be able to move the ball forward on any of these fronts.
So many of you have contributed so much time and even money and resources to make this possible. We want to highlight all of you here. Cindy and I desperately want to spend time with each of you NOT while working on one of our seemingly never-ending projects. Please know that because of your sacrifices thus far, Cindy and I have been able to spend some time away together, alone, for the first time in a long while. We are grateful. And we are just one of dozens of families for which you are helping make that possible.