It can be hard to make ends meet on a certified nurse's assistant salary.
It can be harder still with five additional mouths to feed, bodies to cloth and children to buy Christmas presents for.
But Lorraine, a single mom whose name has been changed to protect her family's privacy, makes it work somehow.
"They get some help from their dad when he can, but it'as not regular," she said. "Mostly I get things done by myself."
Lorraine gets help from her 16-year-old and 12-year-old daughters, who help pick up the younger ones after school because Lorraine works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift.
Her 7-year-old son has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder "and some other special needs so he's all over the place all the time. He's the youngest of six and he has five sisters," Lorraine said with a chuckle.
Her oldest children have children "so I'm also a grandmom," she said.
And that means a long Christmas list, which can be hard to fill with only one regular income to count on.
"Every kid has wishes at Christmas. They want the world," she said. "And as they get older, they want more expensive things like phones."
"I make it work. I explain to them that there's work, rent, bills and they have clothes on their back and a roof over their heads, and that's important too at Christmas. It's not just about getting gifts," Lorraine said.
As it is, "they each get three items. They understand."
What Lorraine's children may learn to understand this year is that other people care; particularly those who read The Mercury.
And they show it through Operation Holiday.
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.