Known as Miss Hannah in her tiny town of Marion, South Carolina, Hannah Ford is an incredibly kind person. This is the story about a woman who found purpose in helping the youth. It all began when Miss Hannah started feeling isolated when her own five children began moving out in 1983.
Her home that was brimming with life suddenly became quiet. Sadly, Ford had lost her husband nearly two decades earlier. Living alone in a home that was intended to house several family members just didn’t sit right with the retired seamstress. That stillness felt uncomfortable.
It was around that time that a friend of Ford suggested that she might want to consider becoming a foster mom.
“She said, ‘Hannah, you would be a good one,’” Ford told TODAY Parents. “So I started doing that.”
And the rest is history.
Nearly 40 years later, Ford, who’s now 86, has helped foster 189 kids in her home.
She never yelled or screamed at the children
Erica Woodberry is among one of the seven children she adopted.
Before moving in with Ford at the age of 12, Woodberry and her younger sister spent more than four years switching between foster homes.
“I’ll never forget the first meal she cooked for us — it was pork chops and I’d never tasted meat that was so good,” Woodberry, 48, told TODAY.
“She sat there at the table asking us questions about ourselves,” Woodberry said, her voice cracking with emotion. “We weren’t used to that.”
Ford is “a very special person,” she added.
Woodberry’s biological sister, Carlotta Ford, 41, couldn’t agree more.
“What I’ve always admired is her patience. She never yelled or screamed at us. She would just give you a talk so you knew how to act,” Carlotta shared. “She’s impacted so many lives.”
Genuinely loves to help
At 17, Kendall Givens-Little moved in with Ford and remembers feeling instantly comfortable around her. He described Ford as always having a calming presence.
“She knows how to build trust. She was like a mother figure to me and I needed that,” said Givens-Little, who’s now 38. “I think a lot of people get into fostering for the money, but Miss Hannah genuinely loves to help.”
Like many of Ford’s fostered kids, Kendall-Givens is now living a great life. He got degrees from both Claflin University and Howard University and is currently working as a director of strategic communications at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
Woodberry owns her own T-shirt business, a home daycare and devotes much of her time to organizing clothing drives for those in need. She said she learned to give back by watching Ford.
Ford will celebrate her 87th birthday in December. She is currently fostering two teenage boys, while also caring for her two other adopted children Lawanda, 37, and Lawrence, 36, who were born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD)
This condition is the result of embryos being exposed to alcohol while in the womb. The effects can include physical complications and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD will have a mix of these problems.
Blair Cieluch, a family support coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, has been working with Ford since 2017.
“The foster children who have been placed in her home hold a special place in her heart,” said Cieluch. “I know she’s left an everlasting impression on them, because she sure has left one on me.”
No plans to stop
As long as you’re healthy, there are no upper-age restrictions for fostering children.
“I don’t see any end in sight. As long as God continues to give me strength and guidance and wisdom, I’ll keep doing this,” she said. “There are just too many children out there in need. They’re coming out of situations where they’re not fed properly, they’re not loved properly. They need me and I need them.”
Woodberry joked that Ford has more energy than she does.
“I can’t keep up with her,” Woodberry said. “She’s still out there working in her yard, cleaning out her flower beds. I’ll be about to pass out and she’s still going. She never complains.”
“I have nothing to complain about,” Ford said. “I’m truly blessed.”