Most nights, Rose McCollum would go around to each room in her Hutton Settlement cottage and sing the other girls to sleep.
“No matter how you’re feeling inside, you can always make someone else feel better,” McCollum said.
From a young age, she was classically trained in opera and loved to sing everywhere on the Hutton campus.
McCollum arrived at Hutton in 1986 with her two sisters when she was 10. She remembers driving down the long tree-lined lane and up to the large brick administration building.
“My mom had a really hard time raising three little girls and she decided she didn’t want to be a mom anymore,” McCollum said. “So, we just watched her drive off.”
The sisters moved into cottage No. 1 and McCollum lived in every bedroom in the house during the next 10 years.
“I kept myself very busy from a very young age,” she said.
She took advantage of the 4H program at Hutton and focused on her grades.
“I think I was a bit of a perfectionist,” McCollum said. “I think the ultimate goal is to always please and do the best that you can so that your birth family will take you back.”
Eventually, Hutton started to feel like home, she said. There were always things to do and people to talk to, which she said kept her mind off her emotions.
After finishing high school, McCollum moved in with a “friendship family,” in the area. Then she got a full-ride scholarship to Whitworth.
Her biological parents tried to re-enter her life, which stirred up past trauma, McCollum said. She felt she needed some “serious counseling,” and took the time to work on herself, she said.
After counseling, she became a single foster parent at 20 years old.
“I think if you have an opportunity to have a child in your home and let them know that they were loved – even this much – in this life, then you’ve done your job,” McCollum said as she pinched her fingers close together.
“A lot of people can’t heal from trauma, but if you can get past the hurt and live with it, then you should give back if you are able,” McCollum said.
Giving back didn’t stop there. McCollum married and knew she wanted to have a large family.
She gave birth to two sons, but both deliveries were difficult. So the couple adopted three girls. One of those girls was a resident at Hutton and came into the McCollums’ lives when she was 15.
The family recently moved to Florida after McCollum retired from her career as an interpreter for the deaf.
The centennial celebration this weekend was a chance to not only see her two sisters but all those little girls she used to sing to sleep who now have families of their own.
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