Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Mother of 5 faces difficult holiday season

- By MediaNews Group

As a single mother of five facing financial difficulti­es, Katrina said the holiday season will be difficult, but that the assistance of strangers will provide her with the greatest gifts of all.

Katrina, 33, a mother of two girls and three boys ages 18-months to 17, has worked as a home health aide this year to support her children but recently saw her work hours diminish when she was unable to get to clients after her car broke down and she can’t afford the repairs or public transporta­tion.

“I have a car but currently it’s sitting on a parking lot and I guess my battery is drained. It stopped in the middle of the parking lot, broke down,” Katrina said. “I walk to the grocery store and doctor’s visits.”

Katrina currently receives no child support from the fathers of her children.

“I haven’t been able to buy my kids school clothes this year,” said Katrina, adding she has been addressing custody issues with the father of her youngest child.

“It is just endless. I’ve been back and forth to court with petitions and custody papers,” said Katrina, adding the emotional toll has been devastatin­g. “We can’t seem to agree. We can’t seem to get it together. At this point I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Katrina receives some public assistance in the form of food stamps and has an apartment through a subsidized housing program.

“It’s providing what we need. I’m not complainin­g but I feel like I’m not providing all the way,” said Katrina, her voice trailing with emotion.

Katrina said the lack of suffi

cient income likely will prevent her from treating her children to gifts this Christmas and she tries to prepare her children for that scenario.

“I kind of talk to them and tell them, ‘Mommy doesn’t have a lot of money right now.’ But I tell them it’s not always about material things, that it’s more about family instead of the presents,” Katrina said. “But I do feel bad, sometimes I feel like I’m backed into a corner and trying to do everything I can.”

Katrina said her children see their cousins, whose families are in a better place financiall­y, have nice things like the latest electronic gadgets and stylish clothes, and they wonder why she can’t provide the same.

“That bothers me. It hurts my feelings,” Katrina said. “I don’t want them to think that it’s all about gifts but they like gifts. They’re kids. Who doesn’t like getting gifts?”

Despite her financial and personal difficulti­es, Katrina considers her family blessed with help that comes from the generosity of strangers through programs such as Operation Holiday.

“I appreciate that so much. It’s a big, big help to me. Thank you so much, I appreciate you and your organizati­on and my kids appreciate you. Never stop doing what you’re doing because it really comes in handy for people who are

struggling like me,” Katrina said.

Operation Holiday helps families like Katrina’s every year.

Operation Holiday was started in 1991 at The Mercury in Pottstown to help families going through tough times provide something for their children during the holidays. The mission of the program is to make sure there is food on the table and gifts under the tree when Christmas morning comes.

Now in its 32nd year, the program has served thousands of families throughout Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, expanding its reach in recent years to include communitie­s served by Reading Eagle, The Times Herald, The Reporter, and Daily Local News.

More than $122,000 in donations last year provided food and gifts for 379 children and cash donations to 13 food pantries in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 22 agencies in the tricounty area. Agencies have referred 144 families with 375 children for gifts and food and an additional 34 families for food. The program is also assisting the eight families in Pottstown who lost their homes in a devastatin­g explosion in May.

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 who volunteer their time.

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.

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 so that families can purchase gifts of their choice.

Operation Holiday does not accept families who have not been referred by an agency.

Operation Holiday is funded solely by reader 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.

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