Life has been anything but easy for Rochelle Stuart. She grew up just out of Salemburg as the daughter of a share-cropper and the ninth child of 20 born to her parents. But the humble beginnings may have prepared her for the work she was going to be doing today, including being the mother of six adopted children.
“We grew up poor. We didn’t know it, but we were poor,” admits Stuart. “We may have been short on money but we were not short on love and support for one another.”
Jokingly, she notes they never were lonely nor did they lack having someone in which to play.
“We had enough for our own teams for just about any sport you wanted to play. Amazingly, we seemed to all get along and our parents were strong supporters and expressed such love for us that we each grew up to have love in our hearts as well,” explained Stuart.
While she has adopted six children — three boys and three girls now ranging in age from 11 to 29 — she’s not alone. She has two sisters who have also adopted children — one sister has four, two boys and two girls, while the other adopted three, two boys and a girl.
Stuart serves as the director of the Sampson County Crisis Center. In that role she is also a bit of a mother to her adopted clients. She strives to provide for each individual that enters the center, trying, she says to treat them as if they were one of her own.
“Things are just so tough right now. Everyone has needs,but the money is short. In my 15 years here at the center, I have never seen it this bad. I had a woman come in the other day and all she asked for was a jar of peanut butter. I told her we did not have any peanut butter at that time but I told her I had a personal jar that I might have removed a couple spoonfuls from if she wanted it. The woman was so desperate that she took my jar of peanut butter. I gave her a sleeve of crackers to go with it. Things are just so tough and it is getting harder and harder to provide for the ones in need,” asserted Stuart.
She shared that growing up in such a loving and large family, she, like many others, just assumed that everyone had a mother and a daddy that loved and took care of their children. It was not until the adoptive mother began to work as a volunteer at St. Vincent’s Children’s Home that she learned that this was not the case.
“I started working as a court-appointed child advocate and I soon learned that there were many children who not only did not have two parents, many had no one that took care of them much less showed them any love. I began to think “surely I can do this for a child. Little did I know what started as one child would grow into a total of six,” explained Stuart.
Stuart is a single mother and is a trustee at Beaver Dam Missionary Baptist Church on Odom Road. Her love of God and working with her church are vital parts of her life as well as her family’s.
“I moved back to Sampson County in 1995 to help look after my mother who was suffering with Alzheimer’s and I began work at the center in 1998. As a mother it has helped me to have more compassion for those who enter the doors of the center. Sitting in this chair is tough. Today’s young people need so much that they are not getting and we must provide for them. I have had to work hard with my children to see that they have and are learning about money management. So many people come in asking for assistance with electric bills and other necessities because they have gotten themselves in a bad way because they did not manage the money they received properly.Too often the panic of not having enough money to survive or feed their family does not set in until there is not electricity or the eviction notice is received,” stresses Stuart.
“I am motivated as a mother and as director of the Crisis Center because I love people. I love to help people. I love God because he has given so much to me, especially my family. My greatest accomplishment in life has been the adoption of my six beautiful children and the work that I do at the Crisis Center. My children are my heart. Loving them and loving the people we help at the center is what keeps me ticking each day.”
The center director did say that some people that come in to the center are not very nice but she believes it is because they are so frustrated with having needs no one can or will meet.
“I feel for those who get upset because we cannot help them or do not have funds to assist, especially when they have exhausted all avenues for help. The needs keep increasing and there are never enough funds to meet the ever increasing needs that arise. I try to take things as they come and not get discouraged. I have to just say to those who wish to speak harshly, God bless you and move on,” admits Stuart.
She says that she really does not have any disappointments in her life.
“I don’t feel that I really have any. I try to take life as it is and deal with it and go forward. I try to teach my children my philosophy of not dwelling on negative things and if trouble arises, put them in the hands of the lord and move on. I love being a mother and I love my job. God has blessed me and hopefully my family, my church, my friends and others whom I come in contact whether in my job or otherwise, I hope I am a blessing to them in some way as well,” expressed Stuart.