Knoxville mom of 15 is hero to single mothers

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Tomma Battle and her husband Chris, pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Knoxville, provide a loving home to eight children. They have 15 in all. The older ones are now grown and on their own.

Each has a different story about how they came to be in this loving, energetic family. Two are Project Grad Knoxville Scholars and will be taking part in the PGK Celebration Dinner April 30 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Calai was just accepted to Fisk University and plans to study electrical engineering.

Raven became part of the family after her own mother passed away. Tomma Battle is her aunt, and so much more.

“When my mama died,” Raven says, “I came up here to live for good and ever since then it’s been good. My auntie: I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be right now because she taught me a lot.”

How does Tomma Battle find time to mother so many children and still give back to the community through a home for single mothers called Next Phaze?

“When I leave here permanently,” Tomma Battle says, “I don’t want it to be said that nothing I did ever mattered nor do I necessarily want everybody to be all about me. It’s got to be about what we do to help the next generation.”

More online: How to nominate a WATE 6 On Your Side Hero

Tomma BAttle has the kind of family she wishes for everyone. That’s the genesis of the house that was so easy to purchase with help from others in our community. The Battles say it’s a sign that it’s meant to be.

It will one day soon house the Next Phaze program: a place with resources and Tomma Battle’s tough love for single mothers ages 17-24 and their children who don’t know where to turn. Her goal is to help women get the education needed to land good jobs, strengthen their faith, and then one day, give back.

In Tennessee, from 2004 to 2013, out-of-wedlock births increased 11 percent for mothers ages 18 and 19, and nearly 25 percent for mothers 20 years and up. Babies born to teen mothers are at greater risk for negative social and economic consequences.

“It affects everybody,” Tomma Battle said. “It affects the community, the close community, the wider community. It affects how children do in school. It affects crime rates. You name it, it affects each one of us. At some point you’ve got to step up and so something.”

“She is a giving person,” said Chris Battle. “This was her vision here with the house. She works steadily with our children, with the children in the community, she’s on three, four, five different boards and they’re all bent on helping other people, and I think that’s what a real hero is.”

For more information on Next Phaze, there is an Open House on Saturday, May 6, from 3 to 6 p.m. at 2701 E. 5th Street in Knoxville. You can email NextPhazeHouse@gmail.com, visit their website at nextphazesps.com or call (865) 214-7556.

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