kristin
heinichen

photojournalist
heinichenkristin@gmail.com
740-591-0712

the bellar brood

The Bellar brood has plenty of elbows but limited
room. There are fifteen children, no more than
two years apart, who live, study, and cook in a
six bedroom house. In three weeks, the Athens
family will be making way for one more. Bob
and Debbie Bellar are pregnant with their sixteenth
child. While it's difficult to conceive of raising
so many children in today's economy, the Bellars
are not worried. They see it as exercise in planned
parenthood; with all arrangements made by God.

"We just tell people that they didn't come to our door on the same day... you just transition into it," Debbie Bellar said. "God created each on of them and they have a unique soul."

Bob and Debbie Bellar haven't simply sustained on faith alone. Bob runs a full-time heating and cooling business and works part-time at Athens Tire Shop. Debbie home-schools all of her children, and spends the day caring for their needs. While Appalachian culture is rifled with negative stereotypes surrounding families who have a legion of children, the Bellars do not perpetuate these negative images. They provide for all of their children with exemplary grace and efficiency.

Knowing her children intimately leads Debbie Bellar to respond smartly to sometimes harsh criticisms of having a large family. "At one point in our lives our response basically had to be 'well, which one would you give up?'" she asked.

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A quarter of the Bellar Brood hang out the window of their Athens, OH living room. From left to right: Asher (7), Samuel (2), and Joseph (3)watch the older kids play on four-wheelers in the front yard. “They didn’t come to our door on the same day...you just transition into it.” said mother Debbie Bellar.
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While the older Bellar children are studying from books sent by their schools, Debbie Bellar, mom, makes sure even the youngest is counting, coloring or has a book opened as part of their homeschooling.
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The Bellar kitchen after a morning of shopping. Their biggest expense is food. On average, the family spends $2,000 per month on groceries, which is by choice as they are careful to choose healthy products. “It has been challenging, but we have learned that Americans have way too much. So we have learned and hopefully passed on to them how to be sensible. To live within your means,” Debbie Bellar said.
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Birthdays are plentiful at the Bellar house. As some of their birthdays fall within days of each other, the brood celebrates together. Left to right: Samuel (2), Johseph (3), Simeon (4), Dan (6), and Asher (7). While some of the boys get the birthday cake they wanted, adorned with blue icing and a John Dear Tractor, others get a cake that says, ‘Smile, Jesus Loves You,’ which makes them not so happy.
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Debbie Bellar holds Samuel (2) following his nap. She explained that some of her favorite times are when her children wake up from their naps and want to cuddle. Debbie is over nine months pregnant in this picture. She has spent more than half of her life pregnant.
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All 15 children pile into the family van and travel to a horse college in Kentucky where the oldest girl, Dinah (16) will apply to. While Appalachian culture is rifled with negative stereotypes surrounding families who have a legion of children, the Bellars do not perpetuate these negative images. They provide for all of their children with exemplary grace and efficiency. “They are fed, they are clothed, they’re given the ability to be happy,” Debbie Bellar said.
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The Bellar family, Debbie Bellar and her husband Bob Bellar who is holding Jeremiah (1), Back row, left to right: Samuel (2), Joseph (3), Simeon (4), and Dan (6). First row, left to right: Asher (7), Rebekah (8), Josiah (12), Dinah (16), Rachel (10), Joy (13), Serah (6), Jonathan (15), and Josiah (12). Their oldest Benjamin turned 18 last month and recently moved to Maryland to carve out a new life for himself.
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Serah (6), adorned with her sister’s purse sits still on a toy slide. With the exception of love, there are instances where the brood has learned to live without where ownership is concerned. They share everything, from bedrooms to shoes to the family pets. But the one thing that is all their own is their pursuit for individuality.
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Jacob, the middle child, is helping his younger siblings on top of a hay bail on their property following an afternoon of homeschooling.
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Left: Simeon (4) jumps down from the old family car while Joy (13) watches her younger siblings, the twins -six-year-old Dan and Serah. Joy remains on the periphery of the family, only joining in on rare occasions. She likes photography and equine studies but has no concrete focus where her future is concerned. All she knows, she confessed, is that she wants to move away from her Appalachian upbringing.
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Benjamin (18) is squirrel hunting on the Bellar and adjoining property. He learned to hunt from his father, Bob Bellar. But as his pop works most of the day, Benjamin has decided to go hunting without him.
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Dan (6) wields a makeshift rifle made of cardboard on the family property as a neighbor rides a four wheeler. All of the boys will be taught how to shoot deer and squirrel by their father, Bob Bellar, when they become the appropriate age. For now, Dan pretends that he is mature enough to be a hunter.
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On November 17th after 10 p.m., Naomi Ruth Bellar became the latest addition to the family. This is the couple’s 16th child. They do not anticipate having more children any more than they are planning to stop at 16. According to Bob and Debbie, “God is in control.” And ‘He’ will make it clear whether his plans are to enlarge their family.
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Dinah, who is helping out on the neighbor’s farm, is the oldest Bellar daughter at 16-years of age. Her plans are to attend Midway College, a private girl’s equine college, in Kentucky. She is looking forward to her independence but anticipates that she will maintain her strong connection to her family. And though there is a large age gap between her and Naomi, the newest member of the family, she expects to have a relationship with her.