Changing lives: Benjamin’s Hope

Changing+lives%3A+Benjamin%27s+Hope

Hailey Warsaw

One pleasant Saturday afternoon, a mother and her 22-year-old son wandered onto the vast campus of Benjamin’s Hope. Instantly, they were greeted by the serene, peaceful campus along with the warmth and excitement of Benjamin’s Hope employee Sara Hogan.

  “He was quite shy and didn’t really want to talk to me much,” Hogan said, describing her first impression of the young man. “He would answer my questions by telling his response to his mom.” This young man was affected by autism, and his mother had stopped by Benjamin’s Hope with the wish to find her child a community and sense of belonging. Inviting the mother and son to come back for the Harvest Festival later that day, Hogan was hopeful she’d see them again. Little did she know, the next time she saw them, the experience would impact her greatly.

  Benjamin’s Hope, an organization that benefits adults with disabilities, provides individuals with special needs a place to live, work, play, and thrive. Not too long ago, Benjamin’s Hope was founded by two loving parents dreaming of a better future for their son, Ben, who had been diagnosed with Autism at age two. “[Ben’s mother] Krista Mason started wondering what life would look like for Ben as an adult, and wasn’t truly satisfied with the options in terms of where Ben could go, especially when she and her husband got older,” Hogan said. “Benjamin’s Hope became a very clear dream of theirs. They wanted to build a place where adults affected by disability could live and work in a place that is safe and [that they could] live independently in.”

  With passion and perseverance, the Mason’s dreams came to fruition. Ben, along with the now 26 other residents, would be able to live, learn, work, and socialize in a setting tailored to their specific needs, something that would otherwise seem impossible if it weren’t for Benjamin’s Hope.

  Alpacas are just one of the sights to be seen on the organization’s 40 acres. Besides alpacas, the land is used for housing, farms, gardens, a church, and more.

  “Folks have as much freedom as they desire. That’s first and foremost,” Hogan said.  “Secondly, we have a high level of excellence here so the architecture, decorations, houses, the staff we hire, the grounds, everything is excellent.” Hogan, along with other employees and volunteers, pride themselves on the immaculate grounds and facilities, as well as providing safe and supportive environments, beyond just aesthetics. “We have a very supportive community as well as a church here, so there’s lots of what we call natural support,” Hogan said. The natural support surrounding residents at all times allows them to flourish at Benjamin’s Hope.

  Residents at the organization enjoy full, busy days filled with a variety of activities. While some residents attend school at places like the Ottawa Area center, others take part in on-campus activities. A typical morning starts off with “life enrichment,” a time for residents to focus on worship and various devotion activities before they do their morning exercise. As the day progresses, residents split into two different workgroups. These groups do barn and garden chores, care for the alpacas, and even work on creating products like soap to sell at their farm-stand. As the day comes to a close, residents regroup and enjoy dinner together as a community and family.

  Three nights a week, residents can also take part in church activities. A new opportunity for community members and residents alike is Club Connect, a ministry for high schoolers and above that meets every Thursday. Here, participants can enjoy worshiping together, meditating, singing songs, and crafting. It’s a fun, meaningful time to socialize, especially because it is open for all to enjoy.

 While Benjamin’s Hope provides an environment that allows disabled individuals to prosper, it is more than just a place to live and work. The experiences Benjamin’s Hope provides are powerful and life-changing.

  That Saturday night, Hogan was happy to see the mother and son again, “I saw them at the beginning of Harvest Festival and I gave him a high five and said ‘oh I’m so happy you came back!’ And he, again, was quite shy but happy to be there,” Hogan recalls. As the festival came to a close, Hogan began to thank the two for coming. All of a sudden, the formerly reserved, shy young man enveloped Hogan in a warm, loving hug, looking her in the eyes and saying, “Thank you for my friends.” Just earlier that day, the boy’s mother was explaining to Hogan her feelings of isolation, yet only a handful of hours later, these feelings were replaced with happiness and hope for her son. “Lo and behold, the same day, . . . he is overflowing and hugging somebody that he was incredibly shy with earlier,” Hogan said. “It’s just a place where the playing field is level. Great things happen when people let their guards down and are able to connect with one another.”

  While Benjamin’s Hope’s main purpose is to benefit residents, the campus is open and community members are welcome to get involved in the organization. For those who are interested in volunteer work, weeding and gardening work can be a big help, especially in the summer. Also, regardless of the season, deep cleaning of the on-campus housing is another area where help is appreciated  

  Besides volunteer work, it is encouraged for community members who might be interested, to join Benjamin’s Hope in worship, either during their Sunday service at 6 pm, or Thursdays at Club Connect from 6 pm to 7:30.

  It is evident that Benjamin’s Hope is much more than a place for alpacas; it’s a place for everyone, a place where all are embraced, cared for, and valued. To find out more, visit http://www.benjaminshope.net.