Grandmother Takes In Motherless Kids, Relies On A Helping Hand For The Holidays

UPDATED: Thursday December 12, 2013 6:55 AM

Though the economy is easing from its four-year slump, many families are facing a bleak Christmas.

A lot of people are unemployed, or under-employed, and don't earn enough to give their children a present.  There also are people like a Columbus grandmother, who find themselves in tough and unexpected circumstances this holiday season.

In a small house in northeast Columbus, there's not much room but a lot of love.

"I called it a two bedroom box, really," laughed Alice Burley.

She was a divorcee with three kids, including a married son out of town and a daughter, when her world abruptly changed.

Her older daughter, Erica, died on Labor Day, and Alice found herself mothering young children once again. She took in Erica's five daughters.

There's an 11-year-old, and two sets of twins, ages 5 and 4. Alice gave up her own room for the twins, who sleep two to a single bed.  Her college-student daughter sleeps in the other bedroom, while Alice and her oldest granddaughter sleep on living room sofas.

"These kids have been through a lot.  And me, I'm just trying to pick up the pieces and do what I can do for them,"  Alice said.

That's especially hard, because she's disabled by congestive heart failure, and just got out of the hospital.  There's room for a small tree in her living room but not much else.

The smallest girls giggled and poked at the ornaments.

Alice smiled at them and said, "It would help me tremendously to try to give something to them for the holidays."

So she signed up for A Helping Hand for the Holidays. This annual program, sponsored by the 10 TV, the Salvation Army, Walmart, and WCOL Radio, collects toys for children and raises money.  Next week, families like the Burleys who have signed up, will make a trip to the fairgrounds. Alice will get to choose a toy for each of her granddaughters. She'll receive a enough groceries to cook a festive holiday meal.

She's grateful that the girls will have a gift each and a special Christmas dinner.  She's looking ahead to the fun.

"My sister's coming over to bake cookies and we'll have a sleep-over...pajama party...Christmas Eve. You know, it's all about family. And right now it's all about them," she said.

Viewers who wish to donate can send a check to the Salvation Army, or drop off a new, unwrapped toy at an area Walmart by December 13.

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