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--- Issued May 9, 2010

Celebrity Chef’s Emeril Lagasse’s Mother’s Day Surprise for Almaz Gebremedhin, 45, an Erie Housing Authority resident of Agnes R. Priscaro Apartments, was also a welcome surprise to officials of the Erie Housing Authority.

“It’s a wonderful verification of what we’ve been saying all along,” said John Horan, executive director of the Authority.

“And that is that public housing in Erie gives our residents a chance to get on their feet economically and shows what people can do with hard work and determination."

Horan said he could not be happier for Gebremedhin.

“We keep asking everyone not to buy into the stereotypes about public housing residents because they are not valid. Almaz Gebremedhin's life story and the fact the as a single mother, whose five children have all attended Penn State on scholarships’s – and the fact that her achievements have been recognized nationally – is a vivid illustration of this. We couldn’t be happier for her and for what she has accomplished.”

Three of Gebremedhin’s children – Adhanom Tadesse, Elsa Tadesse, and Mebrak Tadesse – were Louis J. Tullio Scholarship winners. Elsa won the scholarship two years in a row.

The $1,000 scholarship is meant to encourage students living in public housing and also, to keep alive the memory and spirit of the late Louis J. Tullio, Erie’s only six-term mayor and a dedicated educator and coach. A key purpose of the scholarship is to establish role models for public housing children.

“It was obvious to committee members that Adhanom, Elsa, and Mebrak were wonderful students and role models,” Horan said. “And now things have come full circle. Their mother is a role model for the rest of us and for the entire country.”

Almaz Gebremedhin is a housekeeper at Saint Vincent Health Center. On May 7, a workday that started for her like any other, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and a news and camera crew from ABC’s “Good Morning America” burst through the hospital doors looking for her “Little A.” They were there to honor her as winner of the ABC’s national “Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed” contest and to give her breakfast in bed. The presentation was broadcast live on the ABC morning news show.

Gebremedhin watched the show as it was broadcast and got the rest of the day off.

Commenting on the surprise, she said, "Emeril came in with those cameras and said, where's Little A? Little A? Where’s Little A? (The nickname Saint Vincent nurses call her).

“Oh my gosh, I couldn't say anything. I was so shocked," she said afterward.

Lagasse came to Erie because "Good Morning America" had selected Gebremedhin as the winner of its Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed Contest, an annual event. The presentation was broadcast live on the ABC News show at about 9 a.m.

Gebremedhin, who has worked at Saint Vincent since 2000, had been nominated without her knowledge by hospital nurse Janice Hulings.

For Good Morning America’s story on Almaz Gebremedhin, written by BRIAN O'KEEFE as it appeared on on May 7, please read below. For the ABC Network video in which that story was used, click
HERE and wait for the video to load next to the text.

Emeril's Breakfast in Bed Contest Winner Announced


In the thousands of submissions to the "Good Morning America" Breakfast in Bed Contest With Emeril Lagasse, one story stood out like a shining bright light: an e-mail from the nurses of St. Vincent Health Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.

At a place where many lives begin, maternity ward housekeeper Almaz Gebremedhin's story of motherhood touches people there every day.

There, the nurses call her "Little A."

"She'll open up the door and she'll go, 'Hi, girls. It's Little A," said Janice Huling, a nurse. "And then we go, 'Oh, good.'"

"She is everything," said Lou Ann, another nurse. "I would give anything to be Almaz."

"When you talk to Almaz," said David Coccarelli, Gebremedhin's supervisor, "you don't realize what she's been through."

She's very upbeat," he said.

An Ethiopian refugee, she spent her childhood in Sudan. By the age of 15, she was in an arranged marriage and soon had five children. Then in 1993, Gebremedhin came to Pennsylvania with her husband, children and a young nephew. It was there that her husband left her -- in a new country with six children to care for all alone.

"Once he left us, she was determined to succeed and not fail," said Gebremedhin's son Hayolom Tadesse.

Gebremedhin stopped collecting public assistance and took three cleaning jobs, working more than 16 hours a day.

In 2005, she and all her children became American citizens.

"I've never seen her put herself first, ever," said David Cullen, a family friend. "You're wondering how a human being can do that."

"No one knows her struggles," said Sara Tadesse, Gebremedhin's daughter. "No one really knows what she really goes through."

The struggle is what the children remember most, in particular the struggle to make ends meet.

"You can just tell, you know," said Mebrak Tadesse, another daughter. "She looked stressed just because of the fact she had all these bills on the table and she still had all of us in the house."

Hayolom Tadesse remembers the only day he saw his mother falter. "We all went out for breakfast to eat and she didn't have enough money to pay for us," he said. "I seen her kinda cry a little bit, you know. And to me, that's one moment that I notice where she almost caved in. But from that day on, she never showed us that face ever again.

"She taught us how to respect people," he added. "She taught us how to work hard. She taught us how to love unconditionally. She taught us how to give. She taught us never to quit and to follow your dream."

It was lessons like those that led all of her children to graduate at the top of their high school classes, and all earn acceptance to Penn State University -- all on scholarship.

"I don't think Almaz understands what she really did with the accomplishments with her children," Cullen said.

Her children say Gebremedhin lives up to her name. Almaz means "diamond" in her native language.

"It's a quietly shining diamond. That's exactly what my mother is," Mebrak Tadesse said. "She just wanted us to explore the world and make our own choices basically."
"She's a rare jewel. She is the best mother any kid could ever ask for," Hayolom Tadesse said. "Every day, I just want to tell her that I love her and, 'Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for making me the man that I am. You did it. It's because of you.'"

She's not just inspiring her children.

"She's definitely somebody who has sacrificed for her children and doesn't seem to resent it in any way," said Pat Dolak, a nurse.

Huling, another nurse, agreed.

"There is strength in this woman most of us will never experience," she said.

So this morning, "Good Morning America" and Emeril Lagasse salute a mother and her American dream.

"I love you so much," Hayolom Tadesse said in a message to his mother. "And if I could give you the world, I would."