KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - WITN's April Mom of the Month has been called a mother to everyone in her community.
She says it began with her parents providing unconditional love, so now that's the legacy she wants to leave, especially for those who need it the most and need someone to give them a chance when no one else will.
Dede Lewis, 62 has a need for speed and is a remarkable sight on her three-wheel motorcycle with custom lighting and a custom helmet to match, touting her three grandchildren's names.
She's not only revving up living life to the fullest, she's also revving up her impact on some of the most vulnerable in her community.
Lewis has raised three daughters.
"She's my rock," says Cassie Fraser, the eldest daughter.
"She's my best friend," says Anora Sumpter, one of the twins.
"She's always going to be that positive light to all of us," says Amanda Sumpter, Anora's twin.
"I'm very proud of my girls, they've done everything I've asked them to do," Lewis tells WITN. "They've finished school, college degrees, independent, looking."
Lewis teases about the twins looking for husbands, but it couldn't be more apparent how much love and, of course, laughter is in her Kinston home.
She also helps with Cassie’s three kids and she even proudly wears the same shoes as her granddaughter.
But those aren’t the only children Dede cares for.
"I've been really blessed. I've had 25-30 kids come through my home since 2003," she says.
"She usually gets the ones that none of the other foster parents wants to deal with," Fraser explains.
Lewis is a therapeutic foster mom. She takes in kids, typically teenage boys between 15 and 18 years old, with a mental diagnosis, who often have a troubled past.
"They can range from prison or detention center, I mean, they come from all walks of life and she takes them in and mothers them," says Fraser.
"There is nothing you can do to a foster kid that has not been done to them before except love them," Lewis says.
"These titles have been stepped on them and they feel like they're no one," explains Amanda, who was just a teen when her mom started fostering and has been there through it all. "And then they have my mom who says, 'Don't let these labels predict your future.'"
Dede says she never gives up on boys and girls she's taken in, even when some yell, curse or steal from her. She says she prefers older teens because she can then help prepare them for the real world, including how to cook, clean and get a job.
"A lot of times they reject this thing called love because they never experienced it," Anora says. "And I think that's why a lot of times they do things to jeopardize their stay because they feel like, 'You're going to send me off just like the rest of my family.' And she tells them, 'No, if you want to be here... this is not a foster home, this is your home.'"
With her mental health experience, Dede also helps the foster kids deal with trauma.
"I've heard everything from neglect, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, you name it," she says.
She has worked with kids with behavioral issues for about 25 years, starting in the school system.
While she was a working mom, at 40 years old, she went back to school to get her psychology degree.
Fostering troubled kids is hard, but Lewis' reward is rich.
"We have some that are in the military, have families, some that come and visit my mom and pop up on her, and they always say thank you," Amanda says.
"To hear them say, 'There was one special home' and I want to be that home," Lewis tells WITN. "And if we all do that approach with children and people that we meet, the world would be a lot better."
Lewis' daughters say their mom is who they look up to and aspire to be like. It's also the reason all three are working in the mental health field, hoping to make an impact like their mom.
The kids who fostered with Dede are protected by the confidentiality of the foster program, but if we could talk to them, we're sure they would agree this amazing woman is well-deserving of her Mom of the Month honor.
WITN shares a new mom story the third Monday of each month on WITN News at 5 p.m.
Every featured Mom of the Month receives a $100 gift card, as well as free oil changes for a year from Johnny's Tire Sales and Service in Greenville.