Being a parent can be overwhelming. Imagine having three boys under the age of five and on top of that, you have no job and no place to call home.
That’s the situation one KELOLAND family found themselves in this summer. Luckily, thanks to a program filled with volunteers from local churches, the family got much-needed help during a time of crisis.
Two KELOLAND families used to be complete strangers from different backgrounds. Now, they’re as close as can be.
“They’re my boys. They’re absolutely my boys,” Beverly Lush said.
Just a few months ago, however, it was a much different story.
In search of a brighter future for their young family, Riddick Marshall and Randi Curley left Pierre and moved to Sioux Falls with their three boys.
“My youngest son, he had a doctor’s appointment. One every year. We came and we just thought of staying. A fresh start,” Marshall said.
While little Jaxson’s heart murmur brought the family to town, the couple also hoped to find more job opportunities here. They quickly fell on hard times and became homeless.
“It really made me feel like I wasn’t a mom, like I wasn’t doing what I’m supposed to be doing to make sure they’re safe. It was really scary at times. A couple times I had to cry myself to sleep,” Curley said.
When she finally reached her breaking point, the mother to Johnathan, Julius and Jaxson came to a realization.
In the midst of trying to find work on top of taking care of the kids in a homeless shelter, the parents heard about a program called Safe Families For Children. But they were hesitant at first.
“Kind of like it was too good to be true,” Curley said.
The program is a ministry of Bethany Christian Services and it’s supported by volunteer families from local churches.
When Beverly and Jeffrey Lush were asked at Faith Baptist Fellowship if they’d be interested in opening their home, they felt called to help.
“Anybody that needs a bed, we’ll have one for them. We’ll make one if we have to,” Beverly said.
That was welcome news to Marshall and Curley. After meeting the Lush family, they were okay with giving up their kids, while still maintaining custody, until they could get back on their feet.
“It was hard to watch them go. It really was. It was something I never anticipated doing but at the time it was the right thing to do because we were struggling,” Marshall said.
With their children all grown up and out of the house, the Brandon couple couldn’t wait to fill it up again with the sights and sounds of little ones.
“We spent two months of just watching them smile. Watching them grow. Watching them eat. Julius’ favorite thing was to eat,” Beverly said.
“Johnny, I’ve become grandpa to him. That’s his word for me. ‘Grandpa, look at this!'” Jeffrey said.
They took pride in creating memories and watching the boys be overcome with joy.
“There’s that sadness of like, wow, all it takes to make you happy is a pair of shoes or seconds on macaroni and cheese. I can do that. I can give you a warm hug in the morning and make sure you’re safe all day,'” Beverly said.
In the meantime, Marshall and Curley were doing their best to find work.
“I basically worked every day,” Curley said.
But life was still pretty rough.
“And then we ended up sleeping in our car up at Walmart on 41st Street,” Curley said.
Finally, a breakthrough. The two found affordable housing and it was time to get the boys back. Beverly says 4-year-old Johnathan’s reaction was priceless when she told him his parents landed a place to call home.
“Yes, I’ve been happy here. Yes, things are great but what I really want are my mom and dad. To hear him just proclaim to everybody that would listen, ‘My mom got an apartment!'” Beverly said.
That’s the goal of the program, to support families in a time of need and keep them together in the long run if it’s possible.
“That’s what we want. We want them to be with their parents,” Beverly said.
Curley and Marshall are beyond grateful.
“It feels a lot better. I feel comfortable. I’m so glad that Bev and Jeff are still in our lives. Especially for our kids,” Curley said.
“They’re nice people. Take my kids anytime. They love them. Still run to them today,” Marshall said.
A bond forever forged by just reaching out and giving a hand up to fellow community members.
“It’s hard being a parent anyway and to just add that she was overwhelmed and had been homeless for quite some time. They just needed help,” Beverly said.
They got it and the Lush family will continue to be there for years to come. They may not be related by blood, but these boys have at least two more people rooting for their future success.
“To grow up and flourish with their family and be able to go on and do big things,” Jeffrey said.
175 children have been hosted in four years and the average stay is around 40 days. Marshall and Curley still get together with the Lush family from time to time. In many cases, the volunteer family becomes lifelong mentors to the family in need.