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Unexpected role has its challenges

MANCHESTER — In March, Mary received a telephone call from Pennsylvania. Her daughter had been arrested, and Mary's two grandchildren — ages 2 and 4 — were headed into foster care unless she intervened. (Santa Fund donor list, Page B1.)

She did, and the 54-year-old woman resumed a role she thought she had relinquished two decades ago — primary caregiver to preschoolers.

"I love it, but it's tiring," said Mary, whose last name is being withheld. "A 2- and a 4-year-old, you have to cook for them, you have to clean them, you have to brush their teeth, and they get sick all the time."

Her new role comes with sacrifices.

Mary moved to Manchester to be closer to another daughter, and because it was easier to qualify for WIC — a food-assistance program for young children — in Manchester than Concord.

A bookkeeper at Home Depot, Mary dropped to part time in order to care for the children, but that meant losing her health care. She is just barely paying her bills with the part-time hours.

"Anything, anything, anything," she said when asked what the family could use for Christmas. Actually, the children already have warm clothes (although the 4-year-old girl will pull on tight boots, claim they fit and walk away awkwardly).

The children are amazing, the proud grandmother said. They don't demand the toys advertised on television commercials. A simple coloring book gets them excited, she said.

She asks the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army to provide a few gifts for her grandchildren.

"These kids need a Christmas. They're babies," said Mary, who has donated to the Santa Fund in the past.

More than a year ago, Mary's 23-year-old daughter stole her mother's car and anything she could get her hands on. She said she can't explain her daughter's actions; she doesn't think drugs or alcohol are to blame. "She's just not putting her children first," Mary said.

Last December, Mary drove down to a Connecticut shelter, picked up her grandchildren and brought them to New Hampshire for a few days around Christmas. Then in March, Mary gained custody of the children.


The generosity of Santa Fund donors makes it possible for the holidays to still be a joyful time. The Santa Fund makes food, clothing and gifts available during the holiday season, so ?nancially stressed families can put their resources toward paying bills for basic needs.

Santa Fund donations may be made by sending a check to the Union Leader Santa Fund, in care of the New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester 03108; or by placing a donation in the Santa Fund box in the lobby of the newspaper, at 100 William Loeb Drive, Manchester, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations can also be made online at

Every effort is made to promptly publish Santa Fund contributions. Donors who wish to see their contributions listed before Christmas are encouraged to submit them as soon as possible. The Union Leader publishes photos of donors of $1,000 or more.

Call Shannon Sullivan at 206-7833 for more information.


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