'They need to know they have worth': Fall River woman fed, fostered hundreds of children

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FALL RIVER — Arlene Omosefunmi has spent decades fostering hundreds of children and feeding many more. She said she can’t imagine her life any other way.

“I was just pulled by the kids,” she said. “I’m happy that I did it and I’d do it again.”

For more than 20 years, Omosefunmi, a Fall River resident, cooked meals at the Boys & Girls Club of Fall River, where she was a familiar face serving breakfast, lunch and dinner during both the school year and the club’s summer camp. She also drove a van transporting children for the club.

She’s now the cook manager at Resiliency Preparatory Academy, Fall River’s alternative public high school.

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To her, she says, her career hasn’t been just about serving food. A big part of her job is also encouraging the children she interacts with to have respect for themselves and others.

“I’ve always tried to respect the children,” she said. “Even if they’re struggling at home, they need to know they have worth.”

Arlene Omosefunmi and Jay Campbel, one of her first foster children.
Arlene Omosefunmi and Jay Campbel, one of her first foster children.

Along with her work at the Boys & Girls Club and Resiliency Prep, Omosefunmi has been a foster mother for about 250 foster children over the past 23 years.

She’s has fostered kids of all ages and backgrounds but has always had a soft spot for helping to raise teenage boys. She strives to teach them family values and how to respect their future wives and women in their life, she said.

Once, she took in a family of six siblings because they didn’t want to be separated.

“It just feels good to help someone out,” she said.

Jay Campbell, one of her first foster children, recalled how Omosefunmi taught him to iron his own clothes and insisted he always look presentable, as a way of showing self-respect.

“She taught me everything,” he said.

Arlene Omosefunmi
Arlene Omosefunmi

Last Friday, Omosefunmi was honored during a ceremony outside Resiliency Prep in recognition of being nominated by state Rep. Carole Fiola for the Commonwealth Heroine Award. Fiola presented her with an official citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

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Fiola said she had visited the Boys & Girls Club when Arlene was working there and watched her talk with the kids.

“You could just see the passion she had, not just for cooking meals but for interacting with the kids,” she said. “You could tell she was making a difference.”

She got a standing ovation at a recent ceremony for all 120 honorees from across the state, Fiola said.

“We need more Arlenes,” she said.

Carole Fiola presents a citation to Arlene Omosefunmi in recognition of being nominated for the Commonwealth Heroine Award. One of her first foster kids Jay Campbel looks on.
Carole Fiola presents a citation to Arlene Omosefunmi in recognition of being nominated for the Commonwealth Heroine Award. One of her first foster kids Jay Campbel looks on.

Audrey Cooney can be reached at acooney@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Commonwealth Heroine: Fall River foster mother Omosefunmi honored