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86 year old woman seen as a mother figure for hundreds of children

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The phrase, "it takes a village to raise a child" means something different in the Brainerd community. 

There, that village is Ms. Mary Wesley, an 86 year old woman who has opened her home to hundreds of kids in her neighborhood. 

Wesley first moved to her home on Hawthorne street in 1956. It wasn't long after that she became licensed in caring for children. She explained that's when she realized it was her calling from God. 

"I've watched over 100 [kids]. After I left and retired from Erlanger Hospital and word-of-mouth got out, I started a daycare," said Wesley. "(It started with) neighbors telling neighbors how good I was with my children and how mannerable they were."

As a mother of seven, Wesley's parenting style is like no other. It's why most parents often turn to her for guidance and support. 

"I'll tell the parents yes I'll keep them, but when you all come through the front door the rules are different in my house. I don't play. I take care of you," said Wesley. "I tell them if you can't pay me or can't afford to feed them, no child ever leaves my house hungry."

Family means everything to Wesley. It's why family photos decorate the walls inside her home where kids are taught valuable life lessons. 

"While they're young I train them to the pot," said Wesley. "I teach them if it doesn't have your name on it, don't touch it and you are supposed to say yes ma'am and no ma'am. Ain't no yeah or no. Not in my house."

Her feisty personality and generous spirit is what many kids like Deonte Carter admire most. 

"I actually have a lot of mothers in my life and she's been actually one of them. She's a very kind person, open-hearted, loving. She's exciting to be around," said Carter. "I really care for Miss Wesley and I know she really cares for us not just me but for everybody else around this neighborhood."

Sharon Loving agrees. She first met Wesley eight years ago, while looking for someone to babysit her grandson during the day. Loving said she was impressed right away. 

"She is good at what she does she knows her craft she does it very well. I think she's a remarkable woman. I think to be her age and still have the interest and energy to take care of children is amazing."

Though her grandson hasn't seen Wesley in two years, Loving said he still remembers and asks for her. 

"We love and appreciate her we don't take it lightly," said Loving. "We're all blessed and better for having known Miss Mary Wesley the one and only."

At 86 years old, Ms. Wesley is now a mother figure to everyone in the neighborhood. 

It's a title she says she's most proud of. 

"It's happiness that they still think of me," said Wesley. "It give me a sense of security and love." 

Wesley plans to close up shop after the two youngest kids she watches go off to per-kindergarten.

"I'm not tired. I'm not sick or anything. I just know it's time for me to stop caring for other people's children. It's time to give it up," said Wesley. 

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