Niagara Gazette

November 22, 2013

HAMILTON: Nellie Ashford, Chapel and the fostering of Thanksgiving

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Not long ago, the Chapel at Crosspoint began its collaboration with other churches and organizations in an effort to clear the waiting lists of children who are in need of adoption or loving foster care homes. But many years before then, there was once a nurse named Nellie Ashford. You won’t believe what she has similarly done for so very many, even before there was a Chapel at Crosspoint.

On the Chapel’s Every Child website,, it says that if all of the world’s orphans were lined up in a single file, then the line would wrap around the world twice.

But if the children that Mrs. Ashford took into her Town of Niagara Tuscarora Road home were to have lined up, hand in hand, then that line would likely have stretched from one end of her long block to the other.

The Niagara Gazette printed that there were over 100 such souls that Ashford fostered. The sad thing was that it was printed in her obituary. For you see, the ninety-one-year-old Nellie Ashford quietly passed away Nov. 10 at Our Lady of Peace Health Care Faculty in Lewiston NY. The love, caring and health that Nellie gave to others in her life will echo as greatly and as loudly as Niagara itself for generations to come.

The Chapel at Crosspoint is a giant Western New York church, and the mission that they lead is even more massive. However, that mission is less daunting because of giants like Nellie Ashford and others.

It makes me feel good to know what Nellie did; but it is never enough to know that we only see as far as we do because we stand on the shoulders of these great giants. It is also not enough that there are giant organizations like the Chapel at Crosspoint that also stand upon such shoulders as hers. But having stood upon the shoulders of those who are no longer with us, what then is our fair measure of service?

Abraham Lincoln suggested in the deepest meaning of the words spoken in his Gettysburg Address that, ‘… it is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who [have lived amongst us] have thus far so nobly advanced.”

There is indeed much more work to be done, on all sides of this situation. The noble organizational efforts of the Chapel and their friends’, the accomplishments of Nellie Ashford, and the work that other people and organizations now do and did to teach parents the art of loving responsibility are all of ongoing importance.

But, again, as Lincoln suggested on such efforts, the work that they have done in their lives should not have been in vain because of their passing; and that the results of their efforts, which is now carried upon our shoulders, “… shall not perish from the earth.”

While the Chapel refers to the homes to which these children go, such as Ashford’s, as ‘forever homes’, those children who attended her funeral at the St. John’s AME Church in Niagara Falls, will fondly remember her as a forever mom.

Derick Fluker said of his forever mom, that there were so many positive things within that home that he would not know where to begin telling them. He was there with Ashford from the age of 5 until he was 21 years old.

According to Fluker, Ashford was indeed a mom who knew how to administer tough and loving care. “She made sure that school was first. She would wake us up at three in the morning to finish assignments. We made our doctors’ appointment, food was on the table and clothes were on our backs.”

When asked about church, Fluker, a former USN petty officer, laughed as he said that she had them in church four of the seven days of the week.

As for his foster family, Fluker says, “We all are still friends today.”

The most important things in our lives are the things that we do to help others through theirs. That is our reasonable service. Please go to the website to see how you can help.

Next Thanksgiving, as you sit down to your tables and enjoy your holiday meals with your families, please consider the possibility of setting yet another place for someone who needs a parent like you, regardless of how flawed you both might be. Together, we make each other perfect; and in turn, we make our world more perfect. Nellie did.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Contact Ken Hamilton at

Contact Ken Hamilton at