Photo: Bill and Liz Hough opened the Beautiful U Resale Shop in the Elburn and Countryside Community Center in late 2013 to support Beautiful U Ministries and provide a place to work for girls enrolled in the program. The grand opening for the resale shop’s new location at 112 N. Main St., Elburn, will take place on Saturday, April 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pictured are Bill Hough (left to right), Kami Hammond, Jamie Scroggs, Diane Mitzelfeld, Liz Hough and Skip Stolley. Photo by Lynn Logan
ELBURN—Bill Hough’s mom was 16 years old when she gave birth to him. Although others around her were encouraging her to have an abortion, she resisted that path.
“Luckily, she chose life,” said Liz Hough, Bill’s wife.
Thus began the seed of a ministry that would call the couple years later to provide support to teens like Bill’s mom.
Four years ago, Liz and Bill were taking a break from fostering children so they could reconnect with their own three offspring when they felt the call to begin mentoring teen mothers.
The Houghs were matched up with a teenager who was five months pregnant. They invited her to come and stay with them on weekends and holidays, and she gradually became a part of their family.
The plan was for Liz and Bill to provide a secure environment for the mom and her baby, as she learned how to parent her child on her own. Her healthy baby boy was born in December 2009.
It did not work out as the Houghs had hoped, and ten days after Jaden was born, she left.
“Now, even though she is no longer in touch with us, we have a daily reminder of our impact in one another’s lives, as we were honored with the opportunity to adopt the boy she carried,” Liz said. “We continue to pray that the loving seeds we planted will take root in her life.”
Soon after the Hough’s experience with Jaden and his mom, they began to get calls looking for homes for teens who were expecting a child. Since then, they have welcomed six additional girls into their home.
Liz said that these experiences opened her eyes to the crisis that pregnant teens face in our surrounding communities. She said that homeless teen moms are the fastest-growing population demographic in this country.
“Across the U.S., nearly 800,000 teenagers get pregnant every year, and depending on their environment, many of these young girls must choose between aborting their babies or being kicked out of their homes,” she said.
Six of the seven teens Liz and her family have hosted were in that situation. She found that there was not much help out there for girls who found themselves pregnant at 15 or 16 years old.
She said that the programs that did exist were mainly for girls 18 years of age and older, and those had waiting lists of two to three years. Needless to say, that would not work for a young girl about to have a baby.
That was when Liz and her husband made the decision to start a ministry for teen moms.
“The common thread was that none of the girls had ever sat down as a family for dinner,” Liz said. “That spoke volumes to me.”
By inviting them to become a part of their family, Liz said she saw them begin to bloom. She said that just like a flower that hasn’t been watered for some time, these girls responded to the love that she and Bill showed them.
“Once we became aware of this great need for pregnant teens and teen moms, our goal was to never turn away a pregnant teen or a teen mother in need of a safe, supportive home,” she said. “However, we quickly realized that we’d need more resources than our family alone could provide.”
The Houghs in 2010 founded Beautiful U Ministries as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit Christian organization to serve the needs of at-risk pregnant teens and teen mothers.
At the end of 2013, they opened the Beautiful U Resale Shop in the Elburn and Countryside Community Center in Elburn.
The purpose of the shop is two-fold, Liz explained. First of all, it provides the funding needed to support their ministry. Secondly, the girls in the program are required to work in the shop as part of their participation in the program.
The first 10 hours they work each month are volunteer hours. Above that, they’re paid, and the money goes into a savings account. When the girls are ready to be on their own, the money will be there for a security deposit or a down-payment on a car.
Working in the shop also gives the girls much-needed job skills training for them to be successful in supporting themselves and their baby.
The shop offers gently-used clothing, housewares, toys and more at reasonable prices. Hough said she started out small, not knowing what to expect. However, donations to the store have been so plentiful that Hough said they will soon be moving to a larger space.
“God has far exceeded anything that we could ever have imagined,” she said. “The community has embraced our ministry.”
There are 14 regular volunteers to help out in the store, which is currently open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The volunteers range from stay-at-home moms with children, families, Bible study groups and individuals.
The new location will be five times the size of the current space and will have extended hours.
Beautiful U Ministries Director Jaimie Scroggs knows what these girls are going through. Twenty years ago, she was a pregnant teen herself. She was living with her father and her other siblings at the time.
Although her father was trying to be supportive, his solution was for her to have an abortion.
“’Everybody makes mistakes,’ he told me,” she said.
Scroggs said that, with the help of several friends and some very supportive people, she made the decision to have her baby. Her son will be 19 years old this May. They have lived in Elburn for the past 10 years.
“I always had people looking out for me,” she said. “You have to make tough choices when you’re so young, and you sometimes end up making poor choices because you don’t know about other options.”
She is happy to be involved with Beautiful U Ministries, where she said that what they provide is someone to show the girls they serve that things can be different.
“Beautiful U Ministries is not just about food and shelter and a place to lay your head,” she said. “It’s about becoming part of a family and seeing there’s another way to do life.”