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Operation Holiday: Single mother struggles with balancing work, caring for son with life-threatening illness

When asked about the challenges she’s facing this holiday season, Jolynta said it starts with the Christmas tree.

There isn’t one.

Even if she had the money to buy one, Jolynta says, she would be hard-pressed to find the time between working and running her 13-year-old son to the hospital or his medical appointments.

He has a rare, life-threatening disease for which there is no cure. To cope with a condition that is considered a terminal illness, he needs mental health care as well as physical care.

Jolynta, whose name has been changed to protect her family’s privacy, lives alone with her son. Although she works, she needs the support of social service agencies in part because she missed so much time from work.

“When he gets sick, I can’t go,” she said. “Sometimes I’m at work and I get a call that I need to come to his school and pick him up. He’ll be fine and five minutes later he can’t walk.”

Fortunately, her employer is flexible and doesn’t threaten her with termination for missing so much time.

Food pantries help, but they mostly don’t have the food that her son requires for his specialized diet, so she needs to buy it at a store.

And the bills from uncovered medical expenses keep coming.

“It’s hard,” she said. “I’m taking out all of these loans before Christmas.”

Despite all that her family is going through, Jolynta keeps a positive attitude.

To take some of the burden off her, a social worker referred Jolynta to Operation Holiday.

Operation Holiday

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 Operation Holiday is to make sure there is food on the table and gifts under the tree when Christmas morning comes.

Now in its 33rd 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 $91,000 in donations last year provided food and gifts for 451 children and 199 families, plus cash donations to food pantries in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 19 agencies in the tri-county area. Agencies have referred 165 families with 419 children for gifts and food.

There is no overhead with Operation Holiday and all funds stay local. Funds are collected and audited in a nonprofit 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.

How to donate

Online donations are being accepted in a secure portal in partnership with TriCounty Community Network. Visit and click on the link for Operation Holiday.

Contributions can be mailed with checks payable to Operation Holiday to P.O. 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.

Source: Berkshire mont

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