Chattanooga couple helps raise more than 230 children
A Chattanooga couple is celebrating a special anniversary next month.
Floyd and Deborah Richardson have been house parents at Bethel Bible Village for 32 years, providing a short-term home for children in crisis.
During that time, they’ve helped raise more than 230 kids, caring for them as if they were their own.
When they first came to Bethel Bible Village, they were the youngest house parents.
Deborah admits the early days were challenging. She and Floyd were a young couple with a young child.
“I just remember crying at the end of the day thinking that I’d ruined somebody’s child. I was afraid I didn’t do something right. I just felt like I had to be perfect and everything had to be to the letter,” Deborah said.
Eventually, she said she “let God guide her steps each day.”
She said she learned how to balance being a house parent and caring for her own family.
Growing up with brothers, it was also an adjustment parenting girls.
“The difficulty for me was how to relate to them because I was used to boys. If you don’t like something, you fight it out, get over it and move on. The girls would just go on and on and on, and I didn’t know what to do with that,” Deborah explained.
The Richardsons have been at Bethel Bible Village longer than any other house parents.
“What kept us here is that we saw a great need. This was a tremendous ministry, and it still is,” Floyd said.
The couple provides encouragement, support, guidance and love.
“It’s not all up to us. God is doing work in them, and it may take a little time,” Floyd said.
The couple said the most rewarding part of the job is seeing a positive change in children's lives.
“Sometimes we have kids for a year or two years and great changes have happened. Maybe five or 10 years later, after they’ve left us, and even greater changes have taken place. It makes all of those bad days worth it,” Floyd said.
Serena, 15, has been at Bethel Bible Village for nearly a year and says the couple has changed her life for the better.
“In my life, they are a joy to me. Truly, I love them. In my heart, if I leave here, I will want to connect back with them when I graduate. I want them to come to my graduation,” Serena told Channel 3.
People regularly contact Bethel Bible Village because they’ve heard about Floyd and Deborah and want to inquire for their own children.
“I can’t imagine the challenges they’ve faced over the years caring for so many children as if they are their own, but their personalities just work so well together. Floyd’s sense of humor and Deborah’s spirituality work well together, so we’re just thankful for their faithfulness and their years of service to Bethel,” CEO Rosalind Connor said.
Floyd and Deborah been married for nearly 41 years and have two children of their own.