HOWLAND - Karen, Brandi, Alex, Abby, Darrian, Selena, Nina, Angellena, Stephen, Aundrea and Aiden.
Michael, Keith, Ritchie, Stephen and Samantha.
And dozens of others.
‘I have more pleasure in my life with these kids than anything else.’’
— Betty Strawderman
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Community Star Betty Strawderman is shown with children she has helped to raise.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Community Star Betty Strawderman spends time with Darrian Paden, 9, at their Howland home.
A mother to many - four little words that sum up the largeness of Betty Strawderman's heart and the magnitude of her giving.
Strawderman has raised dozens of children, including her two brothers and sister when they were young and five of her own. She pulled her family through tragedy - a fire in 1988 that caused serious burns to two of her own children - and still never hesitated to help others.
Since she was a young adult, Strawderman has spent most of her time, money, love and energy on raising children and helping people, who for a variety of reasons, find themselves abandoned by their parents, are runaways or adults down on their luck and needing help.
NAME: Betty Strawderman
VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS: Happy Homes Daycare Association, YMCA, Dancers Stand United with DC Dance, Special Olympics and Salvation Army. Strawderman has raised dozens of her children, including five of her own. Now, she has custody of nine children. She has temporary custody of another three children.
For that reason, Strawderman, 53, was selected a 2011 Tribune Chronicle Community Star.
Brandi Gross, 17, was one of the three people who submitted Strawderman for the award. Strawderman took in and later assumed custody of the teen, a 10th grade student at Howland High School.
Gross' mother, unable to work because of cancer, had lost their house, leaving them homeless, Gross said. They went to live at the Youngstown Family Mission, but Gross says she was thrown out.
Strawderman's daughter Samantha, friends with Gross, introduced the two and Strawderman welcomed Gross into the family. ''It meant a lot that somebody that didn't even know me cared,'' Gross said.
Debbie Paden, who also nominated Strawderman, said their paths crossed about 15 years ago. Paden and her husband, Michael, who were traveling with a carnival landed in Warren and became homeless. Michael, who was married to Strawderman, looked her up and Strawderman took in the couple, Paden said.
Paden now works for Strawderman at her daycare.
''I would not trade Betty for the world,'' said Paden, 53, of Warren. ''If anybody on this earth would come to me and say, 'I want to be your best friend,' I would say, 'I already have one of them','' Paden said.
Brooke Hill, 30, formerly of Warren, remembers Strawderman not hesitating to continue taking care of children, including herself and her brother, after Strawderman's home caught fire. The fire badly injured two of Strawderman's sons.
Through all the hardship, Hill, now in South Carolina, said Strawderman ''has always brought a smile to a less fortunate child.''
Strawderman now has custody of 9 youths, ages 1 to19, and runs a daycare out of her 1,076-square-foot Howland home. She has temporary custody over another three children.
Space is limited. The back porch and garage have been made bedrooms and another room, with two picnic tables triples as the dining room, pantry and study area and she sleeps on the couch in the living room.
Finding a quiet spot is often difficult, however, it all seems to work in the end. For instance, at dinner time, when the kids hear the clinking and clanging of cooking in the kitchen, they snap into action - the younger ones lay out the napkins and plates and the older ones clean up afterward.
They also look over one another emotionally, Strawderman said.
''I couldn't raise these kids by myself without they way they are,'' she said. ''They really work as a team.''
Strawderman's devotion to helping others started about 30 years ago when she took custody of her two brothers and sister, removing them from an abusive situation, she said.
It's continued through the years and has included helping young teen girls, who were prostituting themselves for food in Youngstown, by offering them a home. Some of them stay only for a short while, like one of the young girls in Youngstown who reunited with her family, and others stay for years.
Every one has brought her pleasure and each accomplishment they make is special, Strawderman said.
Alex, 12, is littler than most of the cheerleaders at his school, but is on the football team. ''His self esteem is just remarkable,'' Strawderman said. Abby, 10, worries about Strawderman, always peeking around corners to look after Strawderman and asking if she is OK.
And Karen, 19, hated to swim because she was afraid of the water. Not anymore, Strawderman says - Karen is on the swim team at Fairhaven, where she's also a cheerleader.
Strawderman says she doesn't adopt the children because she wants to keep their options open. She says she tries to keep them from going into foster care, especially children from the same family, because she doesn't want to see siblings separated.
Now, there are two sets of siblings in her care.
Paden said she's overjoyed that Strawderman is getting the recognition ''because of the person that she is, kind open-hearted. She will open her home to anybody she can, she'll help anybody that she can,'' Paden said.