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No matter where you go in the world, everyone has their own concept of what family is. These days, families are more diverse than ever. So, what makes up the modern family here in the Mahoning Valley?
A family is no longer just two parents and their kids. Many of us come from unique situations and backgrounds, and there is no way to describe a traditional family. We’ve come to know modern ones instead.
Brad Gamlin and his brother Brent go through every day having to communicate with sign language. Their mother, Laverne Goldner, and her husband Richard are deaf.
“I couldn’t hear my children and so my children would stomp on the floor to get my attention. Tag my hand,” said Goldner. “I was trying to teach the kids how to get a deaf person’s attention.”
Goldner is the breadwinner of the family, working for the past couple of years at the Niles K-Mart. Despite being deaf, she works in the receiving department, unloading trucks and tagging clothes.
“We stretch our dollars and we’re making it,” said Goldner.
Not only is Goldner making it, she raised her two sons on her own.
“When my brother and I were younger, people told my mom that because of her deafness, she wouldn’t be able to succeed as a mother. She wouldn’t be able to raise two kids on her own,” said Gamlin. “Obviously, she proved them wrong.”
There’s never a dull or quiet moment in the Strock house. Aaron and Heather Strock were both married before and came into the relationship with children of their own and then had another child together. This blended family includes five children now, all under the age of 11.
“It’s crazy! It’s crazy, that’s the best two words I have for it,” said Strock.
Yours, mine, and ours works for the Strocks. While there are activities and arguments, there’s also laughter and love. These parents are happy they didn’t hesitate to bring their families together.
“Treating each other with respect and love and just knowing that our house is the one place that these guys can come to and be exactly who they are,” said Strock.
What about the families that don’t have parents? There are plenty of kids being raised by another family member or two parents of the same-sex. Also single moms and dads make up a large part of the family unit.
Karlissa Thomas could go into labor at any moment; she’s just a couple of weeks from her due date. With or without her baby girl’s father, she’s prepared herself to be a mom at the age of 20.
“I don’t see anything stopping me from taking care of the baby on my own,” said Thomas.
Karlissa is one of 6,000 women in Trumbull County that are single mothers of children under 18. Courtney Mathews is part of that statistic. She had her daughter Cherish when she was just 16.
“It was hard. I was still in high school trying to make it on my own as a single mother,” said Mathews. “It was difficult at times, but you just got to pull through, find ways to make it.”
No matter what makes up any of the families across our Valley, everyone can agree on what’s important.
Brad Gamlin: “Loving and Caring.”
Heather Strock: “Love each other.”
Courtney Mathews: “Love, support.”
Karlissa Thomas: “Love.”