By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Comedian, TV host and radio personality Steve Harvey gained lots of attention in December of 2015 when he mistakenly named the wrong person as the winner of the televised Miss Universe pageant. He has apologized and tried to make amends for his error, and that faux pas is now behind him.
This past Sunday, his new show “Little Big Shots” premiered on television, where he showcases the talents of some extraordinary young children. Harvey also has a soft spot for extraordinary working moms, and he proved it when his Senior Producer Tracey La’Stella Slates suggested sponsoring a contest to celebrate single mothers! Announced during an airing of his show this past winter, it was a social media campaign called “100 Dinners for 100 Single Hard-Working Moms”. Nominations were taken online and then the painstaking task to narrow it down to the most deserving 100 began.
Enterprise resident Grace Butcher was the only winner from West Virginia. And it came as a great surprise to her because she didn’t even know she had been nominated!
Grace lost her husband (Jerry Wayne Butcher) following an automobile accident in 2004, leaving her to raise two daughters alone. Because she has done such an “amazing” job, her mother-in-law Linda Mendetta nominated her.
“I saw the Steve Harvey show when they announced the contest about single working moms having a hard time and that giving them a special dinner out was a small token to show them they matter,” Linda recalled. I just went to my computer and started typing out my feelings – straight from the heart!”
Linda says she kept it a secret, knowing that there would be scads of entries from across the country and not wanting her daughter-in-law to be disappointed if she wasn’t chosen.
“Grace is just so truly amazing. It took her a while to get herself together after the accident that took my son, but she did it … and has dedicated her life to her children,” Linda added. “She never asks for anything; she is always helping other people; and she always wears a smile. Her theory is that children don’t ask to be born, but when they are, it is the parents’ responsibility to take care of them, and even if she had to do it alone, she would make it … and she has done such a wonderful job. I only wish that my son could see what an amazing job she has done. I could never ask for a better daughter-in-law.”
Grace recalled the call coming through that announced she was a winner. “I was absolutely dumbfounded,” she stated. “I really didn’t know what to make of it; it was a shock. And I was surprised that I had even been nominated – without my knowledge. My daughters and I cried and jumped up and down, and I just felt so blessed to have been chosen. We must have celebrated for an hour!”
Grace has worked at the Exxon station located just below the Meadowbrook Mall for 17 years. She took time off after her husband’s passing but returned to her job eight months later.
“We had been together since I was 17 years old; he was my soul mate,” she said. “But I kept remembering my father’s words – he was a minister – that God never gives you more than you can handle, so I pulled myself together and have thought of not much more than helping to make a future for my daughters.”
She definitely lives up to being a hard-working mom. She works 30 hours a week, makes a mortgage payment, and has supported all of her daughters’ needs alone during their growing years. Linda, age 21, is now engaged to be married and is employed at the Doddridge County Courthouse; younger daughter Victoria, age 12, is a student at Lincoln Middle School.
Grace says the “win” was kind of a double-edged sword.
“They told me that arrangements were made at Oliverio’s for dinner on January 31, 2014. That was the anniversary of my husband’s death, and it is typically not a very celebratory day. But my husband had a saying to “go with the flow” – so I figured it must have been meant to be and we didn’t change it. It was a wonderful evening; the food was delicious and they treated us so well. The only thing was that I felt a little uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to eating while being filmed! But it was a very special evening to enjoy with my children.”
The family taped a video clip to send their thanks to the show for showing an “amazing” mom that she matters!
Linda concluded, “I know I am repeating myself, but Grace is an amazing person and an amazing mom who has done an amazing job raising her daughters alone. She was so deserving! And I was happy to take part in this surprise for her.”