Friday, April 18, 2003

House donated to mother, 8 kids

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Michelle Wallace
HAMILTON - Misfortune - including a pair of house fires - forced Michelle Wallace and her eight youngsters to make five moves into a homeless shelter and government housing in just two years. But the family is happy to prepare for its sixth - into a home they will call their own.

Wallace, 30, of Northside, plans to relocate to Hamilton in June, taking up residence in a once-vacant home. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development donated the house to Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps first-time home buyers.

That group and two businesses - Art on Symmes of Fairfield and Fashion Bug (Charming Shoppes Inc.) - are raising funds to pay for rehabilitating the house in the 200 block of Chestnut Street. The house is being converted to four bedrooms for Wallace and her children: Moses, 7; Rasean, 8; Aaron, 9; Joseph, 11; Recquel, 12; Jazmine, 13; Jamarr, 14; and De'Antae, 15.

At a news conference at Neighborhood Housing's Hamilton office, Wallace said she was incredulous that others would be so generous.

The Wallace family's supporters are sponsoring "There's No Place Like Home," a fund-raiser that will pay to rehabilitate the house that will be donated to them.

Paintings of Cincinnati Reds players - some of them autographed - and other celebrities will be auctioned June 8 at the Harry T. Wilks Conference Center on the campus of Miami University-Hamilton.

Tax-deductible sponsorships are being sought by May 10 for inclusion in the event's program booklet.

Information: Neighborhood Housing Services, 737-9301.

"A house - our own home? ... I felt like I was touched by an angel," Wallace said, recounting how she felt when she learned about the groups' plans to donate the house.

Her eldest son, De'Antae, said he and his siblings will miss their friends but, "we can make some new ones." He also said he felt the move would be "a new start."

The events that led to the family being "adopted" began in October 2000.

Wallace's youngest son, Moses, was attending Parham Elementary School, where Fashion Bug's "Keeping Kids Warm" program was donating winter coats to underprivileged students.

Moses told a Fashion Bug representative "he had just had a birthday and he didn't get anything for his birthday, but that was OK because he was getting a new winter coat," said Jody McMillen, regional assistant manager for Charming Shoppes.

A Fashion Bug regional manager, Linda McCoy, is also an artist whose work is sold through Art on Symmes.

After learning of the family's situation, Art on Symmes jumped on board to help, as did Neighborhood Housing Services.

The family's supporters say the Wallaces are deserving of such benevolence.

Besides suffering losses in 2001 and 2002 house fires, the family has endured seeing daughter Recquel battle cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Wallace hopes to complete her GED requirements, then go on to become a pediatric nurse.


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