READ MORE COMMUNITY VOICES: Clark State fills the skills gap
Once she got custody, finding adequate housing for her suddenly enlarged family became the biggest challenge. Her three-bedroom apartment was too small, so she moved in with family for a while. That’s where the local chapter of the Clark County Fuller Center for Housing, then known as Habitat For Humanity, came in. Bowshier worked hard to qualify for the Christian nonprofit’s low-income housing program and was able to become a homeowner in 2000.
Seventeen years later, the grandchildren she raised in her Fuller home got together to make her last mortgage payment for her in August of this year, as a surprise and thank you.
“Without my grandmother, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Tamika Rogan, 25, Bowshier’s oldest granddaughter. Grandchildren India Rogan, 22, Julie Rogan, 19 and Akeela Crossley, 9, and great grandchild Kylen Harrison, 4, also live with their grandma. “I was in foster care before my grandmother got clean and stepped up for us. I was thankful that she was able to do it, and that God gave her the strength to do it. I couldn’t ask for a better grandmother.”
It wasn’t easy, as one could imagine. Right after getting custody of her grandkids, Bowshier’s sister was murdered, so she took her sister’s two children and raised them as well.
“It was a hard time for all of us,” she said.
But she kept focused on her goal.
“I wanted to have my own home to raise the children the way I wanted them to be raised, in a good neighborhood,” she said. “We live right beside a little white church with a temple. It was a great opportunity to provide the best for us.”
Rogan can look back on the path of her life and see the impact her grandmother’s decision to own her home through the local Fuller chapter has made.
“The stability means so much,” said Rogan, who now has a good job and her own place. “I was able to do wonderful things in my teenage years because of the stability. I wasn’t bounced from place to place. I was straight A’s most of high school.
“Being in that house taught me so much,” she continued. “I definitely learned responsibility. That’s five bedrooms and two bathrooms to keep clean. And the yard outside was pretty huge, and we always mowed the grass.”
The full realization of what her grandmother did for her and her siblings hit home early on.
“When I was about 12, that’s when I really realized,” said Rogan. “It took me to see my friends going through troublesome relationships at home. It took my grandma taking them in (on a short-term basis) to realize what I had at home. I was extremely fortunate to have what I’ve had in life.”
The last few months have been the toughest of her journey, Bowshier said. Her long-time boyfriend, Jesse Clark, died in March, leaving her with a broken heart and financial challenges.
“I lost my soulmate; we were together 25 years,” she said. “He helped me raise the kids. He was there for us before we even got this house. And then I started struggling these last six months (financially). It was awful.
“I feel a little lost in my house sometimes,” she continued. “I always thought me and Jesse would grow old in that house. He was such a good man. He helped take care of these kids and raised them as his own.”
But besides the emptiness she sometimes feels in her home, she also feels blessing.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Jesse,” she said. “He’s left me something to remember him by. I can still see him walking in the rooms. He’s got this flowerbed outside, and every year the flowers just pop out. Every time I look at them, I think of him.”
How did she make it through all of her challenges?
“I stood up and stood my ground,” she answered. “If you put all your heart into it, it will pay off for you. You know what you have to do, so just do it. And keep God at your side at all times, and He will make things happen for you.
“There are people out there who are messed up and don’t know how to get help and get straightened up,” she continued. “If one person could read my story and turn things around, it’ll be worth it. You can’t do it overnight, but if you stay with it, you can do it.”
The whole journey seems a surreal for Bowshier.
“I still can’t believe I own it,” she said. “I’m happy. No more payments, wow! I couldn’t have done it if we had to pay interest.”
Bowshier was referring to the no-interest loan that is a part of most Fuller Center mortgages. She wonders why more people don’t take advantage of this life-changing opportunity.
“I knew if I could do this, I could do anything,” said Bowshier. “I just refused to let my grandkids get split up.”
HOW TO HELP
This could be your story, too
The Clark County Fuller Center for Housing would like to help make the dream of home ownership come true for a low-income Clark County family.
The Fuller Center is close to finishing the remodeling of a four-bedroom home in the St. Bernard Catholic Church neighborhood and is seeking low-income applicants interested in purchasing the home. The successful applicant would be working with the Fuller Center and Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield, and be assisted by the City of Springfield.
The Fuller Center’s mission is to eliminate substandard housing and poverty with the building or remodeling of homes, using mostly volunteer labor and donated or discounted materials to keep the cost of the home low and then making homeowners out of low-income families who would otherwise not have that opportunity. We also foster a life-long partnership with each family, through which we educate them and assist them as they experience the benefits and face the challenges of home ownership.
If you are interested in working with two service-oriented organizations and the city to help realize your dream of home ownership, give Fuller Center Executive Director Kermit Rowe a call at (937) 325-2514, ext. 303 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.