Sit down, Octomom. You're benched, Gosselin. Louise Hunter has 21 kids. And she's here to give some advice on how to raise 'em.
Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, 74 years ago, the formidable Louise Hunter gave birth to 21 -- yes, 21 -- natural children. Today she is the proud grandma of 60, and great-grandma of 55!
After a kind stranger gave her an 18-room house, sparing her family from eviction in the late '60s, Hunter's faith guided her to open the Love and Charity Mission, feeding and housing anywhere between 30 and 40 people in Racine, WI, at any given time, herself.
In recognition of her charity work, Louise has appeared on many television news programs, has received numerous awards and recognitions -- including the Equal Rights award, and the prestigious Jefferson award -- and has even been honored with her own holiday!
Who better to ask for advice on raising kids?
"The best advice I could give today is to give your kids a lot of love. And be faithful to your kids," says Hunter, a devout Christian. "What I mean by being faithful to your kids -- try to raise them in the right way."
Raising a brood so large was not without its challenges. Hunter says she did it with a firm hand and soft heart. "I was a very strict mother. I let my kids know that I love them, but that they had to obey me," she says. "I've never had my kids fight with one another. When one of them would start something, the other would come to me and tell me. Then I would call that child and ask what their problem was and encourage them to help each other. You can do it if you show love and you teach love. Don't be afraid to say no. Explain that you are trying to protect them and give them lots of hugs and kisses."
Hunter also puts a tremendous value on the family table, especially on Thanksgiving.
"Being the mother of 21 children, no matter what nobody would give us, there's nothing like waking up Thanksgiving morning and having your own dinner with your family, and sitting together with your family, enjoying each other," she says. "We didn't have much. We were a poor family. But we sat and ate together, and God blessed me to use my hands. We may not have had steak and all that other good stuff, but I fixed the beans and the rice and put the bell pepper and the onion and the garlic and let them cook down in their gravy, and cooked up a ton of cornbread and put the egg in it to make it fluffy, and we would sit down and just enjoy ourselves. Kids love to get up in the morning on Thanksgiving and smell the turkey and potato pies in the oven. They need to see Mom making potato salad and all that good stuff. If the mother can't cook, she needs to seek someone who can cook. I make some pies and give them to mothers, so they can bake them."
She also says volunteering and helping the less fortunate in her community instilled a sense of humility into her children. "I taught them to help one another. What do you mean about helping one another? Whatever you find that somebody is in need, regardless of what it is, we try to find whatever they need to make them happy. Right now, we are getting ready to give away 100 turkeys to make somebody happy!"
Through her exhaustive efforts, Hunter is about to hold a fundraiser to keep her Love and Charity Mission alive. If you'd like to help Louise Hunter feed and house the homeless, please send your donations to:
The Love and Charity Mission
1031 Douglas Avenue
Racine, WI 53402
C'mon! Do it! It's Thanksgiving weekend, for crying out loud. I don't know about you, but I'm thankful for folks like Louise, who care enough about others to make such a difference in their lives.
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|