2006 TORCH AWARDS ADOPT A FAMILY
The Cleveland Family
As the spotlight turned toward the balcony, Mary and her eight children stood in recognition. The seven girls and one boy, ranging from 1 year of age to eleven, stood proudly. The Legacy Ladies recognized the needs of the family and supported them by presenting Mary with a set of keys to a new 12 passenger van, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a stove, washer and dryer, prepaid gas cards and made it possible for them to have a home by paying the first month rent and deposit on a 3 bedroom house with a finished basement! (Yes, Mary and her family were on the verge of being homeless.) The family was also presented with two computers, technical training and software package from Sam Knowledge and a family package to Disneyland presented by the Walt Disney Company.
To make this day even more special for the family, the children received a new wardrobe and shoes for the event. Mary received a facial compliments of the “Ladies,” a couture gown designed especially for Mary, compliments of Pol Atteu of Beverly Hills and hair styling compliments of Elgin Charles of Beverly Hills. Mary tried to tell her story at the Torch Awards, but as you can imagine, it was an overwhelming experience. If you would like to know more about Mary and her family, please refer to the “Community Projects – 2006 Adopt-A-Family.”
Mary Cleveland and Family
The Legacy Ladies has adopted Mary Cleveland and her eight children as the 2006 Adopt-A-Family. Mary’s dream has always been to have a home for she and her family. As you read her story, you will understand why “stability” and “home” have always been foreign words to Mary. As you can imagine, finding housing for a family of nine can be quite challenging. The members made numerous calls and researched diligently for months to find adequate housing for Mary and her family. In May, right before the Torch Awards, an Angel appeared, Mrs. Denise Hunter of FAME Renaissance. When the challenge was presented, she responded unequivocally and softly with, “I think I can help.” She made a few calls and the rest is history.
The Ladies were able to provide the housing by making the first month’s rent along with the deposit for Mary which she did not have, leaving her at risk to lose this opportunity. This allowed her to have access to her new 3 bedroom home with a finished basement! The organization is seeking support and working with the family to improve their financial situation, address educational needs and the overall health of the family. Mary Cleveland begins the healing process by revealing her story for the first time….
My Story:My mom left me with my father when I was 3 years old. She told him that she was going to the beauty shop and never came back. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I was sexually abused by one of my dad girlfriend’s son. Till this day I haven’t told my dad. At about 5 or 6 my grandmother took me to the police station, so that I can go to a foster home. It was a different experience, an older lady caring for a preschooler. Not long after I was there her grandson molested me on numerous occasions. My social worker removed me from that home. The next few years I encountered the same type of pattern. I cried. When I was 9 I went to stay with a Reverend and his wife, this would be my home for the next 6 years and also my prison. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally abused. I was handcuffed to a chair, I was whipped with a hand broom, and I was punished often. I felt at times I was a slave not a child. There was a time that I was slapped so hard I believe I passed out. I was not a good child either, I was rebellious, hardheaded, and stole food. I had a very bad temper and was mentally at war with my self. I trusted no one, and kept to myself most of the time, I believed everyone was out to hurt me. So I never got along well with others, or opened up much to anyone.
Back in the 90’s, foster children were not quite accepted. We were stereotyped as failures, and problem children that nobody wanted. My foster parent was strict or shall I say my foster mother. Being emotionally and mentally abused can hurt a child for the rest of their life. No one knows the significant damage it causes especially when they have children and their children have children. I never told what was happening to me because I had no where to go. Some things were unbearable for any child to endure. When I was 15 my social finally removed me from their home into another one. There I was given more freedom, maybe to much. I joined a gang in hopes of finding a place to belong and feel loved. I wasn’t told what to do or how to think and feel. I tried to kill myself or do things that would make others kill me. In 1993 I was raped by 4 guys at gun point, in April of 94 I was shot in the leg by gang members, where was my life going? I got myself together and graduated high school, and was accepted to a very good college in Texas, but I was too afraid to go so I stayed in California. Attending El Camino College and worked part time. I had to leave school early, because I was having my first baby. Passing through the years I endured a lot. I’ve always wanted to be just loved unconditionally. I would at times most times have a shield up to protect myself from rejection and disappointment. I would push people away who got to close to me. I’ve been in a few relationships in which I was hurt emotionally and mentally. As a result, I have 8 children, 2 sets of twins. 1 twin with developmental delays and another twin having seizures at an early age to later being diagnosed with ADHD. All this from a girl who wanted no children. I always felt I was being punished, my mother leaving me, the abuse sexually, mentally, failed relationships, and just not being loved properly. I do my best at being a single parent, times are rough and as they are getting older more needs need to be met, financially and emotionally. We’ve been through dire times, no gas, lights, food and money but we have each other. By the grace of God we’ve always made it through.
In 2005 after the birth of my last baby who was suppose to be a twin but I lost 1, I begin to feel fatigued on a regular basis. I was swelling my in arms, I had a constant fever, and my bones were in complete pain. I was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. At times my kidneys back up causing me to swell up badly. Things that were once easy for me are now becoming a disability. Since I have 7 girls, braiding hair is stressful and timely. But I can’t complain everyday I don’t know how I’m going to feel. Some days are difficult yet painful while other are easy going, I get depressed often and agitated easily. I’m gaining weight rapidly due to the medication, my once beautiful hair is being replaced with bald spots but I can’t complain. There’s times when I can’t get out of bed but I look at those faces and I know that they rely on me. Some ask why I have so many children, many have ridiculed me, rejected me, and downright asked me when am I going to tie my tubes. I don’t receive child support or any type of financial assistance. Maybe I’m going through this to tell my story, everyone’s situation is different, and people go through things differently. I’ve learned to love myself and to not let others determine me, to accept the things that I cannot change, and to open up to others more. Foster children can make it, life is hard but with the right people in your corner it can ease the journey. I feel special thanks to Legacy Ladies. I now know that not all people want things from you for helping you. It’s nice to know that there are people who just want to judge you and not judge themselves. I do have goals, I would like to own a home, I would like to finish some type of college course, and save enough money to be settled with my children. Great people have passed through my life and it’s wonderful. Maybe my story will touch just one person, know that I am where I am because I kept doing my job and continuing to be responsible for my actions. I might not have what most have, but I have the faith to believe that I am special and I can do anything that I put my heart to. Thank you Legacy Ladies for helping me achieve some of my goals.