Maryland Grandma, 88, Is Retiring After Having Fostered Over 40 Kids: 'Just Wonderful Humans’

"The best part of everything is all of my children have turned out to be absolutely fantastic," said Emma Patterson

<p>WRC-TV</p> Emma Patterson


Emma Patterson

An 88-year-old Maryland grandmother has been honored for serving as a loving foster parent to more than 40 children for decades.

On May 31, Emma Patterson was given an award by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich for her commitment to fostering dozens of children since the 1980s, according to Today. The celebration was also attended by many of her foster children.

Patterson began to foster when her biological children brought friends home that needed food or a place to stay, NBC affiliate WRC-TV reported.

“The best part of everything is all of my children have turned out to be absolutely fantastic,” she told Today, noting that they've grown up to become basketball players, business owners and “just wonderful humans.” But after all her dedication, she is retiring.

Related: Foster Mom Who's Taken in Over 16 Young Kids Adopts Teenager: 'Every Person Deserves a Chance'

“For them to recognize me in the way that they have, it has just touched my heart,” she added. A spokesperson with Montgomery County told Today that Patterson is likely one of the longest-serving foster parents in the county and among those who have hosted the most kids

Montgomery County officials did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

“Every time I think about it makes me want to cry, because I didn’t do something because I thought anybody paid any attention to it," said Patterson about the honor. "This was just something that I felt I wanted to do.”

Related: Parents of 11 Open Coffee Shop to Give Foster Kids Jobs: 'They're Just Badass Baristas' (Exclusive)

Patterson is caring for one high schooler who is graduating this year, per Today.

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Madison Scott, one of the kids Patterson fostered, told WRC-TV that she "wouldn’t be here without Nana."

Related: Foster Dad, 29, Adopts 5 Siblings After Refusing to Keep Them Separated: 'They Give Me Purpose'

“She took my mom in and took me in and treated us like we were her own," she added. "She's loved us, she's cared for us, she's done everything.”

Scott, who came to Patterson at 5 months old, is now playing basketball at the University of Mississippi, according to the outlet.

Reflecting on her life as a foster parent, Patterson told Today, “It was God’s gift that I had the honor to be able to take care of those children. I’m very thankful.”

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