Operation Holiday: Mother deals with pain as she struggles to provide for children

Caroline has had quite a struggle over the last few years.

The mother of four, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, lives with several medical conditions including arthritis and diabetes. She has chronic pain and is on a “high dose of opioids around the clock.”

Caroline “just lost (her) third disability” and hasn’t worked since July 2020. She said she receives a Section 8 housing voucher and Plus-Up payments to make ends meet.

But it hasn’t been easy.

Like so many others, Caroline’s family has been living through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Her children, ages 15, 14 and 9 “were homeschooled [during] the pandemic,” and her two sons “have high functioning autism.”

“We’re just a family that stays together. We mind our business. We don’t bother anybody,” Caroline said, noting increasing instances of violence in her area.

With the holidays coming up, it’s been stressful for Caroline.

“We don’t have much to give them,” she said.

Caroline’s daughter wanted shoes. Her son wanted gift cards for an Xbox. But her youngest son isn’t picky about presents.

“This boy is appreciative for anything, even if it’s a soda from the store or a candy bar,” she said, adding that “this kid is my little hero.

“I just feel bad because there’s things that he wants but I just can’t get it for him,” she said.

Caroline expressed her gratitude to those who give to help families like hers.

“I honestly think that if they donate they’re gonna help families that are not able to provide a Christmas for their children,” she said.

The mission of Operation Holiday is to ensure that children in local communities have food to eat and gifts to open, no matter how poor or difficult their family situation may be.

This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 19 agencies in the tri-county area. Agencies have referred 144 families with 375 children.

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.

Gift cards to area grocery stores are provided to each family for food, so that they can purchase the fixings for a holiday dinner as well as staples for the pantry. Weis Markets is a partner with Operation Holiday and has assisted with food purchases and gift cards.

Additional 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.

Operation Holiday is funded solely by readers’ contributions. All contributions are tax-deductible. 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.

Contributions can be mailed with checks payable to Operation Holiday to PO Box 1181, Pottstown PA 19464; The Reporter, 307 Derstine Ave., Lansdale PA 19446; Operation Holiday, 1440 Lacrosse Ave., Reading, PA 19607.

The names of all contributors are published in the participating newspapers as donations are received. Please note whether a contribution should be designated as anonymous or given in tribute or in memory of someone.