Habitat Home Fosters Love
Her children have given her many names, Mrs. Martha, Nam, and even Mom. Martha Coley is still fostering at age 82. She has cared for over 103 children, both typical and special needs. The foster mother began her journey at the age of 24, and has been fostering children through Hall County DFCS and Bethany Christian Services for 33 years. She is able to continue this effort, at 82, because she has a heart of gold and a safe, decent, affordable place for her and her children to call home, even if temporarily.
Before discovering Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, Martha lived in a three-bedroom mobile home with three foster children. The home was overcrowded. Martha knew she needed a nicer, more affordable place. After she learned of the Habitat Homeownership program, she applied and was accepted. She completed her sweat equity, paid her closing cost contribution, signed her mortgage, and happily moved into her home in early 2007.
Martha seized the opportunity to own an affordable home through the Habitat program and ended up paying less for the mortgage than her previous rental. Having a home with more space meant she could continue to foster children without worry.
Tragically, after living in her home for 11 years, a fire started in the attic. Coley’s foster child told her she smelt smoke—and that’s when she realized there was a big problem. They grabbed what valuables they could, mostly pictures, and ran to safety. Martha went back to try to save her dog, LuLu. Her effort was unsuccessful; Martha passed out from smoke inhalation. She awoke to Perry, a Hall County Sheriff, carrying her up her driveway to safety. She had fractured her shoulder in the fall. Sadly, the house was deemed a total loss. The foster parent was able to rebuild her home on the same foundation. The new home took about six months to rebuild.
Coley still presses on with a smile on her face, after seeing so much adversity in her life. In her free time, she continues to help youth. She is currently putting together presents for 300 children through the CASA organization. She enjoys writing and reading mystery novels. Coley is happiest when she sees one of her former children doing something nice, or helping someone. She shares an instance when she met one of her former foster children delivering Meals on Wheels. Martha says, “Seeing my kids help others is inspiring, maybe somewhere along the line I did something or said something that encouraged them to make a difference.”
Coley has always kept a kind heart, and reminds all of her children to keep kindness first.