RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- The call from the county can come day or night. Sometimes it's urgent. Always, it presents a challenge.
Abbas Ahmad and his wife of 31 years, Eva Jean Wilson, are typically asked to take the hard-to-place children. Volatile teens. Children who have been abused.
Their answer, usually yes, begins another emotional saga of welcoming, loving and letting go. For Ahmad, foster parenting is only part of a larger quest to be true to his faith, which means sharing his abilities and his heart.
"I wouldn't feel right if I wasn't being of service," he says simply.
The 56-year-old Richmond Heights man is a shepherd of rare reach. Ahmad is the spiritual leader of Cleveland's oldest Muslim congregation, First Cleveland Mosque, which his grandfather founded in 1937. He's a chaplain to the Cleveland Police Department and an interfaith leader as comfortable with Catholic priests as Pentecostal ministers.
He taught and coached in Cleveland schools for 30 years before retiring in 2005. In addition to raising their own three children, he and his wife have cared for about 40 foster children, most of whom they still hear from. (More)