The holiday season can be a joyful time, but for many it can also be the most stressful.
Lydia, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, knows full well the stresses of raising children, even when it's not the holiday season.
"Basically, I’m raising my two grandchildren. I have a 13-month old and I have a 13-year-old. Their mom’s having a hard time and she couldn’t really provide for them right now. So I’ve been taking care of them."
Lydia says having the two children with her has been a blessing but as a retired widow, providing for them and making sure the bills get paid has become a struggle and she worries she may have to leave her house.
"I’m 68, I’m on a pension and it’s getting kind of tough. I have what little savings I’m using up. I’ve gotten help with WIC and I’m trying to see if there’s anything else we can do to try to stay in my home," she said. "The biggest concern is frankly, it’s going to be almost next to impossible to stay in my home. My social security isn’t enough to let me stay there. I’m a widow and I’m just doing the best I can. It’s a matter of being able to really hold onto the kids and stay in my home."
Despite these struggles, Lydia says the children have been one of her biggest blessings at that she knows Christmas is about being with family.
"Christmas time is a time to be with your family and enjoy your family, to celebrate the holidays. I don’t get real into religion but I believe in God and hope that somewhere there’s a plan up there. But the kids are a blessing to me. That’s how I look at life. It’s a blessing no matter what comes up. We’re going to figure something out," she said.
When it comes to Christmas, Operation Holiday is here to help.
Now in its 29th year, Operation Holiday has provided a brighter holiday season to thousands of families with children throughout the region. Donations from readers last year allowed the program to provide food and gifts for 144 families with 442 children in need.
This year, 15 agencies in Montgomery County and northern Chester County have referred 107 families with 325 children. Stories of families interviewed by our reporters will appear in the newspaper and online between now and December 24.
There is no overhead with Operation Holiday and all funds stay local. Funds are collected and audited in a non-profit foundation account managed by staff of MediaNews Group.
Food, which includes the fixings for a holiday dinner as well as staples for the pantry, is ordered, bought, packed and distributed by employees and their family members as well as local high school and community volunteers..
Gift cards for every child in the program 16 years of age or younger are purchased through Boscov’s and distributed in partnership with the referring agencies.
Operation Holiday does not accept families who have not been referred by an agency in order to protect the integrity of the program.
Operation Holiday is funded solely by readers’ contributions. All contributions are tax deductible.
Contributions can be mailed to The Mercury, Attn: Operation Holiday, PO Box 1181, Pottstown, PA 19464, or The Reporter, 307 Derstine Ave., Lansdale PA 19446. Make checks payable to "Operation Holiday."
Online donations are being accepted in a secure portal in partnership with TriCounty Community Network. Visit https://tcnetwork.org/ and click on the link for Operation Holiday.