Julie Stalmer 5:30 p.m., Sept. 22
- Community Blog
Otay's Ranch Hero
In a neighborhood located in Chula Vista’s Otay Ranch, there is a regular house on a street just like any other. Its front yard is mowed and well maintained and if you are to walk in, you’d see a very normal family home. What is so extraordinary about this house are the people that live in it: Ms. Lashawn Anthony, her fiancé, granddad, birth son, five other teenagers who are her foster children, and of course little puppy Marley.
This story is about Ms. Lashawn Anthony, the “new era” Mother Theresa but don’t expect an old lady. She is a 44 years young woman that doesn’t look a day over 35. There is a Rumanian proverb saying that “The eyes are the mirror to the soul”, looking in her eyes I could see a humble, kind soul, full of love and life, eager to make a change. I heard about her from one of her now grown up foster children, Tashara Gaskill, who still calls her mom. After Tashara’s parents died, she and her three other teenage siblings were left pretty much on the streets. It’s really hard to find a foster family for a teenager, which makes it so much harder for four of them, and they didn’t want to get separated. All they’d got left was each other. And then Ms. Anthony came in the picture and took them all in and she already had four kids in her house, plus her grandparents to take care of. How did she do it? “Hard work and dedication,” Tashara said. As a home care worker, she would wake up in the morning, feed all the kids and send them to school. She’d give care to some elderly people in the neighborhood, come back to the house to prepare lunch and dinner, greet the kids that are coming back from school, and do all the mommy stuff around the house. In the evening, when all is set and done and the kids are doing their homework she will go again out, just to transform into the home caregiver again. I asked her if she has time for herself and she said that she goes grocery shopping every day, and that’s her own version of “me time.” However, shortly after she added that she will have to start going to Costco as the food is getting expensive and there is not always enough money for it. To save some money she learned how to cut the kids hair at home, now she cuts the hair to the neighborhood kids too. Vacations? Not really, only once in the past few years, to Ohio for a five day visit to a friend, but every year she makes sure she saves enough money to rent a cabin in Big Bear for a three day weekend so the whole family can go there. She explains that of course they can’t afford to go skiing, but even though all the kids have different personalities they all love snow sliding and snowballs fights. I asked her how she can handle all the work around the house; she assures me that the kids help her a lot too. The girls are helping with the cooking and dishes, the boys with the front yard, vacuuming and the trash. Also her fiancée, a former foster parent and an excellent grill cook helps with the cookouts. She tells me that it’s harder for the kids when they just come in, the first month especially as most of them have been through some sort of drama. She would give them as much moral support as needed and they get over it. They involve themselves in sports at school (games that she attends as much as possible), interact with each other and the community, and the younger one proudly shows me the family pictures he edited with Photoshop. The kids usually leave the house when they are 18, but before that Ms. Anthony makes sure they have jobs, places to live and they all still call her “mom,” and keep in touch or call for advice. Some have already their own family and kids, and some are joining the army. As soon as one leaves she takes another one in. She says she would take up to ten kids in if she had room for them and if the Social Services would let her. On an interview with Social Services two siblings separately answered to “What is their biggest wish?,” with wanting Ms. Lashawn to be their mom, so she adopted them. “I love them; they are my family and the meaning of my life.”