Starting Over is Possible
“I see a lot of people struggling. Yes, it’s hard to start over again but you have to be willing to sacrifice and accept where you’re at so you can move forward. And times are going to be hard - but you cannot give up.” - Robert Roe
Have you ever had to start over? This is part of Robert Roe and CJ Benschoter’s story. Their story is one of moving from loss and brokenness to renewal and redemption.
Robert and CJ met in Florida and have been together for about 5 years. CJ grew up in Miami with her adopted family. Robert moved to Florida when he was 20.
Robert was the business owner of a successful construction company. Overnight, all of that was taken away by a hurricane. It destroyed the company’s equipment and remodeling jobs, but this was not the only hardship that Robert and CJ faced. They both lost their fathers within four months of each other. They have lived through toxic relationships leaving them frustrated, brokenhearted and desperate. People have taken advantage of them and hurt them in many ways. In an attempt to dull the pain in their lives, Robert and CJ turned to drugs.
“There’s a lot of people that are doing drugs to cover up something that has happened in their lives that they’re ashamed about or that they don’t know how to get through,” says Robert.
The drug use eventually landed them both in jail. CJ served time for a month and Robert for eight months as he underwent treatment for drugs and mental health. When they got out they had nothing. They went from owning a successful business to being homeless in a matter of months. They had hit rock bottom, and they did not know where to turn.
The couple knew they needed a fresh start and an escape from the toxic relationships in their lives. A friend helped out by giving them $800 and a bus ticket. This was their chance start over. But where would they go? Little did they know that their move to Blythe-Oldfield had been in the works for almost 50 years.
CJ was 3 days old when she was put up for adoption. CJ never heard from her birth mom until one day a woman reached out to her on Facebook and explained how she believed CJ was her biological daughter. CJ knew she was adopted, but was unsure of this sudden news. Not long after, CJ got very sick with a kidney infection. It was so bad that she was declared legally dead for 13 seconds. Her husband at the time knew it was important that CJ talk to her biological mom, so he called her and gave the phone to CJ. As soon as CJ heard the voice on the other end she knew it was her mom. CJ’s mother lives in Blythe-Oldfield, and she invited Robert and CJ to come live in the neighborhood when they told her it was time for them to move. CJ was 47 when she met her biological mom for the first time.
All they had to their name was one duffle bag and enough money to last them a week in a hotel. As soon as they stepped off the bus, a young man in a truck pulled up to ask them if they needed a ride. They told him they were going to the Quality Inn Hotel, and he confirmed that it was inexpensive and within walking distance. When they reached the hotel, the lady at the front desk gave them a special deal for their room and told them about various resources in Cleveland for food and supplies. After that, Robert and CJ connected with more of the hotel staff who were very friendly and helpful to them. The hotel hired Robert to do maintenance work in exchange for a room. CJ says that God must have strategically placed people in their lives because what started as a one week survival plan turned into five months of provision. They moved to Blythe-Oldfield after living at the hotel for about five months.
Robert began a second part-time job at the M&M factory to make ends meet. In July 2019 he quit working at the hotel to pick up more hours at the factory. He was going to be hired full-time, but then M&M realized he had a four-year-old drug misdemeanor on his record. Their policy stated that employees could only have misdemeanors five years old. They tried to change that rule because they valued Robert’s work, but, in the end, they had to let him go. M&M approved him for unemployment in attempts to make things easier for Robert, but this turned into yet another obstacle. Receiving unemployment turned out to be an extremely difficult process.
This unexpected job loss set the couple on hard times once again. CJ was unable to work because of various health problems. Her eyesight is in poor condition, so she is unable to drive or work for the time being.
Even so, they weren’t ready to give up. Robert applied for another job at Food City, a local grocery store chain. He was hired for a part-time night stocker position. The only problem was he was hired to the location on the opposite side of town, which was about 4 miles away. With no car and no license, Robert started riding his bicycle to work, and sometimes he took the bus or a cab. To make matters worse, according to the unemployment agency’s policy, Robert could not have a part-time job and continue to receive unemployment funding. Although his job could not pay their bills, he believed the right thing to do was continue working at Food City instead of quitting right after being hired.
Robert’s motto since moving has been, “We always gotta do the next right thing. If we do the next right thing, it’ll be okay… It’s like a fail safe: if you just do the next right thing then you’ll never fail.”
Within a few months, Robert’s work ethic and dedication to the job was noticed, and Food City hired him full-time. He has worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and he was recently promised full benefits starting in August. Robert continues to ride his bicycle to work every day.
“He’s my hero,” says CJ, “Going to ride his bicycle to work and going when everyone else was quarantined. He didn’t say ‘oh okay i don’t have a vehicle’… he never flinched about it so it doesn’t feel like it’s burdening him, so he’s my hero.”
Robert and CJ have lived in Blythe-Oldfield for about a year and a half now. They are engaged and will be getting married this July! They plan to stay in Blythe-Oldfield long term and are looking to buy a home through City Fields. One of their big goals is to help people in the community. If CJ’s health improves, she wants to go back to school so that she can open a social service center in the neighborhood. They both believe in creating a safe space where people can truly be themselves without judgement, accept who they are and learn how to move forward with their lives. CJ and Robert have both lived through drug addiction, depression, tragedy, poverty and so many other hardships. They want to share hope with people who feel lost in the same ways they have.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Robert. “If you’re always afraid you’re never gonna get it and no one ever knows you need the help. It took me 42 years to realize that.”
CJ’s biggest piece of advice to people comes from a quote by Morgan Freeman: “You only fail when you stop trying.”
That’s what CJ and Robert do every day. They keep trying. They keep moving forward. This is a lesson that all of us can learn from and be inspired by.