This is where Homes Giving Hope (HGH) dwells, a Christian nonprofit Sara and Brian Boven and Kay Wood co-founded following the Bovens' purchase of the 23-acre property in December 2019 for persons with special needs. The woodsy area includes a former chapel whose downstairs now serves as office space.
There are a handful of "divine moments" the Bovens and Wood cite that led to the founding of Homes Giving Hope. The first one was the circumstances that surrounded purchasing the home and its property. Brian, who sells real estate, had initially intended to sell the home to another buyer.
"He had this property listed with the real estate agency and a family was going to purchase it and the sales fell through at the last minute," Sara recalls, who serves as the home's leader of daily operations. "Brian was on the other end of town had to come through (U.S.) 131 and was at a total standstill (on the highway) and was with God for an hour and a half. In that moment, during praise, he heard God say, 'I have greater plans for that property. You are to buy it and do something with it.'"
The second divine encounter involves Wood, HGH's director of admissions and residential affairs and a retired special needs educator with a master's degree in education from Calvin University with endorsement in learning disabilities and autism.
Wood also had eyed purchasing property east of Rockford that was for sale so she could launch a living community for special needs adults but eventually set the idea aside.
Then in the fall of 2019, Wood visited with a former student at Benjamin's Hope in Holland, a Christian nonprofit for adults with developmentally differences, where she also encountered another former student. During praise and worship, Wood's dream for a similar home was lit anew.
Caught in the updraft
Her desire percolated when Sara Boven told Wood the news of her and her husband's purchase of the Rockford property and their desire to develop a Christ-centered living community for persons with special needs. That's all Wood needed to be caught in the updraft of the Bovens' vision for HGH.
The three met to map out the idea of developing the property into what is now a 501c3 nonprofit. Wood originally thought the home she had in mind earlier would set on 40 acres, but after joining forces with the Bovens, declared "23 acres will do."
"I knew in that moment God had been stirring in my heart last few months leading up to this," Woods recalls. "That was actually a calling. I've never been called to anything but I literally felt a calling. To know God had a greater purpose in my life. On Dec. 19, 2019, Sara, Brian and I were instantly united in heart, spirit and mind. God made it clear this is the population He wanted us to serve."
Currently, HGH has one home operational. It's a five-bedroom house entirely for adult woman all with varied unique abilities. The organization has a goal of constructing four more homes of 4,000-square feet each, a retreat and worship center and boardwalks throughout the property that's near downtown Rockford.
All homes will have a maximum occupancy of five people of the same gender along with a resident assistant who will live in the home to coordinate evening meals and activities while also cultivating a family atmosphere.
"We have a site plan for our next phase, which includes a men's home, and have a waiting list for men who are ready to move into that home," Wood says. "We really are modeling after our Father's heart. This is a population that really has been forgotten. There are group homes that provide care for people but there's nothing in Kent County that provides independent living. We feel called to touch people with God's love. We really are a community that includes and loves everyone and is dearly loved by Jesus just because they are created by God."
What HGH is and is not
HGH is not a care facility or group home. It is a Christ-centered independent living community intended for those ages 18-38 who have the skills to live on their own, with minimal support from a residential assistant. It does not provide medical management or personal care services.
Individuals pay monthly rent ($900) as well as a monthly service fee ($200) for all the additional living support and amenities. Each resident must qualify based on the organization's eligibility requirements.
Residents schedule their own activities, transportation, jobs and supportive needs, while also gathering as a home to plan and eat meals and engage in social and spiritual activities.
The resident assistant assists residents as necessary with planning. The organization's board of directors plans group events monthly. Current and future homes will have a security system with keypad entries that only residents and guests have access to.
Funding for the five homes and a community center is projected to cost $3.5 million.
"We've come a long way since late 2019 when we first started to piece together what God had put before us," Brian Boven says. "It seemed like a major task a first, but God has brought this into reality by making a clear path and for bringing so many committed volunteers to help grow this community."