By Tony Parra
Some mothers may have to take care of five or maybe even eight kids, but there are other mothers in Portales who have to take care of more than 20 children.
Three house mothers at the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home in Portales share responsibilities with their husbands of taking care of the children, ranging from five years old to 18. Other Children Baptist Home workers help out, butthe three mothers are held accountable for the children 24 hours a day.
“It’s taught me patience,” Lisa Gamble, a house mother, said. “I have a little more understanding why kids act the way they do. You can deal with them better.”
Lisa Gamble and her husband, Steven ‘Gopher’ Gamble, are one of three couples staying at the cottages with the children and teens. The married couples live in a cottage and have an average of seven children staying with them, according to Geraldine Dooley, CBH administrator.
“I have a whole new perspective,” Sandy St. Clair, a house mother, said.
St. Clair and her husband moved to Portales from Arlington to work at the Baptist Children’s Home. St. Clair has three children of her own who are 25, 23 and 21. She said she probably won’t get to see them for Mother’s Day. She said her children are in Hobbs, Plano, Texas and Irving, Texas.
“I had empty syndrome,” St. Clair said. “I’ve always loved kids and it didn’t seem that I was finished.”
Dooley said there are three couples staying in the cottages and watching 22 children. Tammy Hillis is the seasoned veteran home mother, with more than four years of experience.
“There’s a lot of adjustments you have to incorporate as a big family,” Hillis said. Hillis and her husband, Tracey, have three children of their own. Both work as house parents at the children’s home.
Hillis is also a full-time nursing student at Clovis Community College. She and her husband are in charge of six teenage boys. Hillis said they have to take the boys to many activities, such as basketball and baseball games and church.
Dooley was once herself a CBH house parent and has worked with the Baptist home for 16 years.
“The mothers are the foundation of the Baptist Children’s Home,” Dooley said. “It’s not just them, but the fathers as well. They have a lot on their plate. They have to deal with a house full of children.”
Dooley said it can be tough for house parents sometimes because the children are trying to adjust to the structured setting. St. Clair said the children work on chores before and after school.
“They’re some teenagers that don’t like authority,” Dooley said. “House parents can be an evil necessity. I promise, these kids will be grateful for all that they have done.”
Dooley said every Mother’s Day Baptists are encouraged to participate in Dorothy Hubbard Mother’s Day Offering for the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home. The home has ministered to families since 1919.