Surrogate moms fill role in our lives

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Many of our lives have been touched by women who are nurturing, caring and generous -- though they're not our biological mothers. We call them our "surrogate moms."

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Opal Averhart, a volunteer at Barton Chapel Elementary School, practices a CRCT song with students. She volunteers daily as a "classroom mom."  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Opal Averhart, a volunteer at Barton Chapel Elementary School, practices a CRCT song with students. She volunteers daily as a "classroom mom."

This Mother's Day, we're celebrating the women who might not share our DNA, but they've always been there to offer advice, support, a shoulder to cry on and maybe a home-cooked meal.

Here are a five Augusta-area women who have made a difference in the lives of others:

CLASSROOM MOM

Opal Averhart, parent at Barton Chapel Elementary School

Averhart goes to Barton Chapel Elementary School early each day and serves as a volunteer. Her daughter is in fifth grade there, but Averhart is mother to the whole school.

Last year, she was voted "Mother of the Year" at the school, said Principal Joretta Akpo-Sanni.

"She's one of the heartbeats of the school," Akpo-Sanni said.

Averhart helps students with classwork and makes time to talk with them -- in addition to her full-time job as an independent case manager. When students have exciting news or even if they've done something wrong, they'll tell Averhart.

"I think it's important for them to know that somebody cares," she said. "If they feel that nobody cares at home, nobody cares at school, that's how I feel that they get lost in the shuffle. I don't want any child to feel like that. I want them to know that I'm there for them if they need me."

COACH MOM

Ann Jennings, basketball, track and volleyball coach at T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School

Jennings doesn't have biological children, but each year, she is a mother to female student athletes: 17 track team members, 12 basketball players and 12 volleyball team members. She has been coaching for 22 years.

"When mom's not around, they have someone to fill in here for mom," she said. "When they have problems, they'll come talk to me. Some young ladies cannot talk to their parents...but they feel comfortable enough to come talk to me. I have an understanding relationship with my players. My door is always open."

Jennings' goal is to prepare her athletes for life. She teaches them basic skills such as hygiene and the importance of respect, as well as how to be a lady.

Even after they graduate, the girls stay in touch and reminisce about old times. They're just like daughters, she said.

"I'll never forget them," she said.

OFFICE MOM

Carole Cislo, Meybohm Realtors

Adults need moms, too. Cislo is an administrative assistant and the "office mom" for 55 agents and employees at Meybohm Realtors. She's the counselor, friend and confidante. A former employee called her "Mama Carole."

"I have broad shoulders, and they know they can talk to me and everything stays confidential. They just need to have an ear to listen to them," Cislo said.

Somebody will stop by her desk for a simple conversation. By the end, they're asking her for business and personal advice and telling her "whatever is on their mind."

"This happens outside the home, too. I can just start talking to somebody, and all of sudden, I'm listening to all of their problems. It surprises me sometimes. Some people just need an ear. You get frustrated at a point in time, and you need a neutral person to talk to," Cislo said.

CHURCH MOM

Kathy McVeigh of Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church

McVeigh is the administrative assistant for music and youth at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church. Unofficially, she's the "church mom".

She's married to youth pastor Roy McVeigh. She has one adult son, but many children in her extended church family.

"We always say that instead of having an only child, we really have about 150 children," McVeigh said.

On Tuesday and Friday mornings before the sun comes up, the aroma of home-cooked breakfast comes from McVeigh's kitchen as she prepares breakfast for two morning Bible study groups for high school boys and girls that meet at her home.

She serves as a mentor for the teenagers, as well as other girls at the church through her work as a camp counselor and chaperone on choir trips. Girls call, text or e-mail to ask her to pray for them or meet with them to talk.

"It's just a sweet opportunity to be a part of their lives. I love that they love the Lord and have a passion for Him. They are our next generation. They can make a difference in the world. They can make it better," McVeigh said.

NEIGHBORHOOD MOM

Louise Mulherin, Summerville neighborhood

When they moved to Summerville 15 years ago, Mulherin took her neighbors, Raymond and Pam Doumar and their children, under her wing. Mulherin has helped the family in many ways over the years, and she always remembers holidays and events in their lives, Raymond Doumar said.

The relationship started when Pam Doumar started asking for Mulherin's advice about antiques. Doumar's mother had died in 1995, and Mulherin stepped in as a mother figure.

"Our love for old things kind of brought us together. I liked her a lot, and she liked me. We just started doing things together. Some people click," Mulherin said.

Mulherin said that she has three daughters and has always related well to young women. She's taken many women from the Summerville area under her wing. They ask for her advice and tell her things they might not tell anyone else. They even invite her to parties along with their younger friends. When her husband died, along with her own daughters, these same women rallied around her for support.

"I just seem to understand them. Sometimes when their own parents don't understand them, I do," Mulherin said.


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