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KECI's local hero is Missoula foster mom who sees miracles in the lives of children

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jul 26 2013 06:41:24 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 28 2013 06:00:48 PM MDT

Mina Airhart was nominated by her friend and neighbor Holly Sanders.

Mina  has been taking care of youngsters, many of them special needs kids, for decades.

MISSOULA, Mont. -

A Missoula foster mom sees miracles happen all the time. It might be a toddler who wasn't expected to sit up or roll over, suddenly move.

Many of these foster kids are special needs. When they arrive they're scared and out of their element. They they meet Mina.

Mina Airhart is KECI's newest local hero, nominated and given our community service award because of her years of dedication to children.

Mina Airhart feeds a little girl with special needs. You can bet she has barrels of baby food in the refrigerator. Always ready for children.

"I have bottles, diapers, clothes," said Mina, "they come with nothing."

It's always an emergency. They're usually taken from their parents, and Mina becomes their mom, at least for awhile.

"Our goal is to make sure that they can go back to their parents," said the caregiver, "if it's ever necessary."

Foster care is short-term. But Mina's kids stay 10 to 12 months with her. Saying goodbye is never easy.

"It's OK if you know they're going to a good home when they go back," said Mina.

She's always been a caregiver. Just ask her a little brother.

"Anything we need," said Steve Ehlers. "Mina's the one we call."

Big sisters in big families are that way.

Steve was only 7 when their dad was killed in a logging truck accident. Mina was 16.

"Mom finished raising the last four kids on her own and Mina was there to help," said Steve.

"My mom had to make a living so she started a day care," recalled Steve's older sister, "and I helped her with the kids."

Mina and her late husband did foster care for years. After his death, she kept on taking care of kids.

"I don't know what I would do if I didn't do foster care," she said.

Steve said his sister attracts kids with disabilities.

Mina has children of her own, and at least a dozen more who, for a short span of time, were her kids too.

Past foster youngsters still keep in touch.