Grandmother raises 5 kids with — ‘the help of God’
UPDATE: Although this 52-year-old grandmother is raising five children, ages 16 months to 14 years, in a small, two-bedroom house, it feels like a much improved house — thanks to the host of donations given to this family. They’ve received furniture, a computer, clothes, gift cards.
“They are absolutely thrilled. Overjoyed. Words cannot express it,” says Laura Reilly, community program manager of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martin County. “They live in a tiny little place, and to have new furniture and nice beds for the kids has meant so much to them.”
Nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties.
By ELIZABETH CLARKE
Special to The Palm Beach Post
Deborah Thompson sits in her living room, working a sewing needle through a shirt for a friend as she talks quietly about raising children for the second time around.
As a young woman, Deborah struggled to have kids and gave birth to just one — Miracle. Today, at 52, she’s surrounded by kids because she’s raising her late niece’s children and her three grandchildren with little help.
“Without God, I don’t know how I would have made it,” she says. “I just trust and pray that it’s going to get better one day. No matter how bad it looks.”
When three of the kids burst in from school, joining the toddling baby, the needs come to life: food, clothes, toys, furniture, kid stuff, a bigger home.
“Ma, I’m hungry.”
“What’s to eat?”
“When’s the computer gonna work?”
It’s a busy place, this tiny two-bedroom stucco house that shelters six to eight people every day and night. When the cable guy squeezes in to repair the Internet and television connections, Deborah laughs at the happy chaos: guests, kids, repairman all crowded together and clamoring for attention.
But she feels bad, too. She usually offers anyone who stops in a sandwich. She’s usually doing the helping: collecting donations or housing someone in need or giving somebody a ride to the doctor.
She doesn’t like needing the help for this makeshift but loving family — the grandkids, two grandnieces, her daughter and a grandnephew who spends most of his time here.
This Indiantown native has been raising the nieces and nephew since their mother, whom she also raised, died in early 2004. Deborah gained custody of the grandchildren about a year ago. After 24 years as a full-time Kmart employee with health insurance, Deborah now works occasionally as a substitute cook at a nearby school. She hardly earns enough to manage the basic bills.
“The hardest thing is not being able to provide the things the kids really need,” she says. Things like winter clothes, shoes, two sets of sturdy bunk beds, a deep freezer and a refrigerator.
Deborah doesn’t think of her own wishes. “As long as the kids got, I’m fine.”
But yes, she says, a bigger place to live — she’d love her own sewing room — and a reliable car would help. And no, she wouldn’t change a thing about deciding to take in all these children.
“I feel if I had to do this all over again, I’d do it.”
Raising six children, ages 16 months to 14 years, isn’t easy for this 52-year-old grandmother who is squeezed into a two-bedroom house with the kids and her grown daughter. They need a bigger place to live, a refrigerator, a deep freezer, a reliable car, winter clothes (girls’ sizes 24W, 12 and 4T; two boys, both size 12), shoes (women’s sizes 6, 11; boys’ sizes 3, 4; and infant size 7) and diapers for Ja’Merria, 16 months. Tequaris, 14, hopes to be a plastic surgeon and would like a laptop computer. Deborah also dreams of finding a nutritionist who could help Tequaris with her weight. The kids want toys: a football for Jerell, 8, and a Nintendo DSi for Jamaris, 7, and Dynshia, 10.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties 5033 S.E. Federal Highway Stuart, FL 34990 (772) 283-8373
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