Widowed father of four children given a year’s rent in safer apartment

Sheth family continues tradition of matching Season for Caring funds, but also helps father with specific gift.

When his phone rang in May about midnight, Rogaciano Ríos Marcial knew it couldn’t be good news. His wife had been hospitalized for several days shortly after Mother’s Day and fell into a coma. And even though doctors had warned him that his wife, María Lorena Suárez Escobedo, likely wouldn’t survive, he answered the phone hoping this wasn’t that call.

Although his wife’s heart was still beating, he needed to rush to the hospital. It was time to say goodbye.

Earlier that week, when Ríos Marcial found out that there was no hope left for his wife, who had liver complications, he’d talked with her. Although she couldn’t speak, he told her not to worry.

“Ask God for forgiveness,” he said to her. “Don’t despair. All of us are going to go down this same road, so don’t feel bad. Right now it’s your turn, but later will be mine.” Ríos Marcial felt she understood him.

When she died, on May 22, he remembers huddling with other family members in the hospital waiting room as a priest consoled and prayed with them. Overcome with emotion, Ríos Marcial stepped outside the huddle and began to cry. But the priest invited him back to the circle. “It’s OK if others see you cry,” he said.

Although he takes things one day at a time, Ríos Marcial, 46, said he’s still consumed by sadness and misses having someone to talk to.

The Ríos Marcial family is part of the Statesman Season for Caring campaign, which helps 12 featured families and hundreds of other families through local nonprofit agencies. The Ríos Marcial family was nominated by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin area.

Managing four children ages 10 and younger on his own while keeping a full-time job hasn’t been easy.

“I’m struggling,” he says. Since his wife’s death, Ríos Marcial has encouraged the children — Alma, 10, Jasmine, 9, Keaity, 7, and Jesús Roberto, 5 — to pray more often at bedtime and before they leave the house.

One of their prayers has been answered. The family will move into a new three-bedroom apartment in mid-January. The Sheth family has made a donation to cover their rent for 12 months, and the Aubry Hills apartment complex also helped make it affordable.

The gift will get the family out of their current apartment where the sink leaks, the washer and dryer are broken, and wires are hanging from broken light fixtures.

“The fact that the Sheth family is willing to prepay an entire year’s rent for this family, it’s opened up an opportunity for us to help them in a way we wouldn’t be able to,” said Misti Potter, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

Potter said the club will be able to help Ríos Marcial with things like financial counseling to help him better prepare for the future. “It’s giving them a chance that they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said. She likens it to the old proverb about teaching a man to fish.

The Sheth family has had a long relationship with the Boys & Girls Clubs and has given to Season for Caring for the past three years. Last year, they gave a $100,000 matching grant, and offered that same match this year. Season for Caring donations are being matched by the family through Monday.

The rent donation takes care of the biggest item on Ríos Marcial’s list, but there is still much more the community can do. He needs truck repairs; an attorney for a will and life insurance; a washer and dryer; a microwave; twin beds with trundles; dressers; grief counseling in Spanish; an English tutor; a computer with internet service, and clothing.

He would like to take his children on outings. Alma loves soccer and basketball while the younger girls enjoy Shopkins cartoons. Jesús Roberto likes “Thomas & Friends.”

Although he’s constantly overwhelmed by his new role as a widowed single father, Ríos Marcial said that he turns to God for strength.

“God,” he says, “is who is guiding us, I think.”

To find out more about the Ríos Marcial family or to give an item on the wish list, contact the Boys & Girls Club of the Austin area at 512-444-7199 or visit bgcaustin.org.

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