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Big Mama

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While it's often said that it takes a village to raise a child, the tables have been turned in the case of one caring Fort Lauderdale resident. Ms. Essie Reed, known to all as "Big Mama", is busy helping raise many of "the village's" less fortunate children.

Big Mama has three sons of her own, Christopher, Brennan, and Sam. The Reed family experienced hard times of its own after being abandoned by the boy's father when Christopher was only one month old. "We lived in a fish market for a while," says Sam, "so we know what it's like to have no home." Brennan added, "Our experience made us realize how important it is to help others in need." All three of Big Mama's sons help out in many ways, from directing the Boys' Step Team and running errands to driving neighborhood kids to school each day.

Big Mama and her extended family are members of the Royal Assembly Church of the Living, located at 1964 Sistrunk Blvd. Bishop L.W. Williams and other parishioners have both given and received support from Big Mama's Team of Life organization, and the Church serves as the location for many of the organization's events.

During a recent visit, Big Mama told me about some of her most memorable and rewarding experiences. "The church owned a fast food outlet on Broward Blvd where we taught many of our kids useful job skills. After a long day at work, we'd wake the Bishop at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. He would open the Church for us, and we would always take time to pray before going home. It touched my heart to see how sincere those children's prayers were." Among her many civic awards, Big Mama was honored as Community Activist of the Year 2001 by the Vanguard Chronicle.