National Mother of the Year hails from DC

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Emily Hatton

Winning the National Mother of the Year award shouldn’t have been a complete a surprise to Ernestine Allen. After all, she has 17 siblings, three children and six grandchildren.

Not only that, one of her younger brothers started calling her Mom because she spent so much time with him in childhood. And even her students and fellow church members refer to her as Mom as well.

Allen, 62, won the award from American Mothers, a 75-year-old national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that promotes preservation of families. The group also calls itself the “official sponsor of Mother’s Day.”

Allen said she was in disbelief when they called her name at the organization’s convention in May.

“I mean I had a speech. I pulled one out of my bosom, but I had no idea I would be selected as the National Mother,” she said.

And what’s her role for the organization for the coming year? “My job is to reach as many moms as possible, to let them know the importance of motherhood,” said Allen, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Making a difference for children

As the tenth of 18 children, Allen said she learned to nurture early on.

 “There were so many of us, and a lot of my younger siblings, really needed that type of nurturing. And I guess I just had this sense to give it to them. I was able to listen, I was able to hug and kiss, so that just grew up in me,” said Allen.

She carried that mindset with her as she moved from her hometown of Louisburg, N.C. to Washington, D.C. to live with a brother in 1968. Allen has been active in the community ever since.

She taught for 11 years at Calvary Christian Academy, the school affiliated with her church, Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church. She then started working with D.C. public schools.

“I wanted to go where I could really make a difference in the lives of the children, I mean a really vast difference,” said Allen, who taught in D.C. public schools for seven years.

She now works with the Center for Empowerment Employment Training, a program that helps low-income and disadvantaged adults earn their GED certificate.

“I had some really rough boys and girls [there], because you know once you drop out of school, where do you go except the streets?” said Allen.

Allen continues to work closely with her church as a team leader and an Elder on the Ministerial Alliance. She and her husband, Ronald Robert Allen, Sr., are also premarital and marital counselors, and help officiate at weddings and funerals.

“We do all of that,” she said, “we marry, we bury.”

It was through her church that she found two other volunteer opportunities, working as an HIV counselor and tester for a year, and now helping at Fairview, a halfway house for women in the city.

Allen also donates to Fairview when she can. Recently, she dropped off clothes after cleaning out her closet.

“The person who received it said to me, ‘When these ladies come to us, they come in orange jump suits. And that’s all they have,’” said Allen.

While staying busy in the community, Allen also stays close with her family. She lost the youngest of her three sons to homicide in 2006, and stays involved in the lives of her six grandchildren.

“I tell my husband, we have to see our grandchildren as often as we can so that we can put all of us into them. And that’s what we do, we just pour ourselves into their lives, and it’s just beautiful,” she said.

She and her husband founded a bereaved parents’ support group in 2010. “Our motto is ‘you’re not alone.’ Those who come to the group are all in the same boat, we all have lost a child, and we all can identify with each other.”

Helping young mothers

As National Mother of the Year, Allen wants to use her position to reach out to young mothers and impart the significance of their role upon them.

“I think that me being in the middle of the group [growing up], I sort of saw aspects of both sides. I saw the struggles that my mom had with this many children, and then I saw how important motherhood really was,” said Allen.

Allen said when she sees women walking with their toddlers and babies in the streets late at night as she comes home, she finds herself wondering why the children are up so late. She plans on visiting group homes to reach out to single and young mothers.

“I really want to reach out to the single moms and the young mothers. I want to talk to them, I want to get in venues where I can really talk to them and go into their lives and ask them to be better moms.”

To learn more about National Mothers, see www.americanmothers.org or call 1-877-242-4264.