Kristin Pierce is highlighting Neighborhood Heroes each week. If you know of someone who should be profiled, Kristin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sitting in her living room, surrounded by her family, Blanche Reed Pratt is the center of attention.
Her personality is inviting and her laugh is infectious.
Blanche has 12 children, 34 grandchildren 48 great grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren. The walls of her home are covered with their photos. Everyone brings in their own frame and finds an open spot.
The 90-year-old even still cooks.
“I still cook red beans, greens, cornbread,” she said.
She is also still walking.
“I'm still walking. They want to put me in the wheelchair, but I told them I wasn't ready to be rolled in. Long as I can make a step I plan to walk,” she said.
This great-great grandmother has many names – mom, granny. But arguably, her most popular name is Mama Reed. Her family says she’s known as Mama Reed at her church, in her community and basically the entire Ninth Ward.
Mama Reed didn’t just raise her 12 children, she helped raise communities.
In 1970, Mama Reed opened up a nursery at her home. The nursery remained open for about 30 years and over those three decades, she took care of hundreds of children.
“She treated them very nice. I wouldn't have been able to start working if I didn't have a babysitter," one neighbor said.
Parents didn’t always pay but Mama Reed never said no.
“She would never turn anyone away,” Morris Reed, Mama Reed's son, said.
"She took in kids from out of state who came to New Orleans and had no place to live,” Linda Paisant, Mama Reed's daughter said.
Her generosity didn’t stop with children, she was this way with everyone.
“I took care of a lot of people when I was able to do that,” Mama Reed said. “The lady from next door to me I took care of her, Ms. Lucille. And I took care of Brother Green. I took care of Ms. Franklin.”
And if she didn’t take you into her home, she made sure you ate.
“Every time I used to serve them red beans on Monday,” she said.
“She's a wonderful person. She's just loving. She can just give so much love for a little lady,” Paisant said.
She gave love over the years, even during difficult times. Mama Reed cared for her first husband until his death. She did the same things for her second husband. She also took care of her mom, sister, brother, uncle.
And when she lost one of her daughters to cancer, she took in her two children raised them and sent them to college.
“I just thank the Lord he gave me strength to be able to do it,” Mama Reed said. “It's always good to do good things for people who you can do it for.”