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Mon, 10.07.1912

Giving to the community, Charlezetta Waddle

Charleszetta Waddles

Charleszetta Campbell Waddles was born on this date in 1912. She was a Black administrator and churchwoman.

Born in St. Louis, MO, she was one of seven children of Henry and Ella Brown Campbell; only three of the seven children lived to adulthood. Her father died in 1924 and with her mother's failing health a factor, Campbell left school in the eighth grade to work.  Becoming a single parent of several children young Campbell she went on AFDC and educated herself by reading.  Married several times, she and her husband LeRoy Wash migrated to Detroit, MI in 1936; they later divorced.

"One day I had a vision," she was quoted once, "The Lord told me to feed the hungry and clothe the naked." Her husband, Payton Waddles, a former Ford Motor Company worker who died in 1980, supported mother and the children while she rounded up neighbors and fellow churchgoers to start the mission. With an eighth-grade education in the late 1960s, Reverend Charleszetta (Mother) Waddles founded a comprehensive social services agency, the Perpetual Mission that serves the low-income communities of Detroit. James K. Davis of Life described as her "one-woman war on poverty," although she herself often struggled.

Privately funded and staffed by volunteers, the Mission now helps approximately 90,000 annually. The list of the Mission's services includes emergency aid, job training, a graphic arts program, and a culinary arts school. Those seeking help from the Mission include unwed mothers, prostitutes, abused children, the handicapped, the elderly, and the poor. The volunteer staff ranges from Mother Waddles' own children to a mostly paralyzed woman who made phone calls from her house to locate wheelchairs and arrange transportation for the indigent.

Funding, according to a 1990 Mission budget report, accounted for a total income of $114,500 and expenses and contributions of $112,500. In addition to overseeing the Mission, Mother Waddles gave speeches and sermons she called "downtrodden tales," that were a mix of optimism and humor. Ms. Charleszetta Campbell Waddles died in 2001.

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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