Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Waddles, Charleszetta "Mother"

Mother Waddles devoted much of her life to assisting the poor and destitute in many ways. Born Charleszetta Lena Campbell on October 7, 1912 in Saint Louis, Missouri, she was the eldest of seven children. Soon after her father passed away, and with her mother in poor health, she dropped out of school at the age of 12 to help support her family.

At the age of 36, Waddles began her crusade against poverty while her husband supported her and their ten children. After learning that her neighbor with two children was going to lose her home, Waddles collected donations of food and money to assist her. She soon followed this act with numerous other selfless acts of charity. In the late 1940s, Waddles began holding prayer meetings in her home for small groups of women whom she encouraged to join her cause. During this period, Waddles was involved in diligent Bible study and eventually became an ordained minister in the First Pentecostal Church. Later, she was re-ordained in the International Association of Universal Truth.

In 1950, Waddles founded the Helping Hand Restaurant, where she offered 35 cent meals. Those who could not afford to pay for their meals could eat for free. Initially, Waddles did all the cooking, dishwashing, and laundry herself, but eventually, dozens of dedicated volunteers assisted her. In 1984, the restaurant was forced to close due to a fire.

Waddles was able to convince an inner-city landlord to let her use a vacant storefront at no cost in 1956. There she established the Mother Waddles Perpetual Mission for Saving Souls of All Nations, later shortened to Mother Waddles Perpetual Mission. Through the mission, Waddles offered a free medical clinic, job counseling and placement, as well as several innovative programs that included classes in typing, dressmaking, machine-operation, upholstery, and cooking. Throughout her life, she received numerous city, state, and national honors. Mother Waddles passed away on July 12, 2001 at the age of 88 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.