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Having survived times of homelessness and financial instability, Peggy, a single mother of 8, said she is grateful she and her children can be together and have a Christmas celebration, thanks to a Pottstown landlord and the  Operation Holiday program.

Peggy moved to the Pottstown area from Maryland several years ago and initially lived with a relative. However, her relative got evicted and Peggy and her children found themselves homeless.

Working at the time at an area restaurant, Peggy and her children moved into a local hotel.

“We had to pay to stay in a hotel for a whole year. We were in one room. I thought I would never get out,” said Peggy, explaining it was difficult to save enough money for a security deposit to put down on her own apartment.

“I was calling different landlords, telling them my story, telling them I could pay rent because I was working. But I didn’t have the security deposit because I had to pay for the hotel so my children had someplace to sleep,” Peggy recalled.

However, Peggy said one borough landlord heard her story and “he worked with me.”

“That was the best gift I ever had. He heard my story and he said ‘I’ll work with you,’” said Peggy, adding the landlord’s generosity has helped her to begin making things better for her family. “It’s getting better. It’s still hard but I’m making it.”

Peggy, who recently lost her job, gets assistance from some relatives and a food stamp program. But she gets no support from the children’s father as he has been incarcerated for several years and will be for several more years.

As the Christmas season arrives, Peggy knows it will be difficult to have presents for her children, ages 6 to 17.

“I told my children Christmas is going to be tight, that I probably won’t be able to get them anything for Christmas,” said Peggy, her voice trailing with a bit of emotion. “Maybe we’ll have a big dinner or something.”

Peggy said her children responded, “That’s ok mom, we understand.”

“They try to make me feel better so I won’t be sad about it. But I know that they really want something. I kind of feel bad that I can’t get them everything that they want,” Peggy said.

Peggy said her four boys like video games and her four daughters want clothes, shoes and makeup.

“My only wish is that my kids are happy. As long as my children are happy, I’m happy. That will make my day,” Peggy said.

When she learned that she was eligible for The Mercury’s Operation Holiday program, Peggy was overcome with emotion.

“I do want to say one thing. Thank you for picking my family. This is the first time ever in my whole life that I got picked for something like this. I’m excited. Thank you for choosing my family. We’re really grateful,” Peggy said.

Peggy shared her story with The Mercury to inspire those who can to give to the children of our community at this most appropriate time, the holidays.

Now in its 29th year, Operation Holiday has provided a brighter holiday season to thousands of families with children throughout the region. Donations from readers last year allowed the program to provide food and gifts for 144 families with 442 children in need.

This year, 15 agencies in Montgomery County and northern Chester County have referred 107 families with 325 children. Stories of families interviewed by our reporters will appear in the newspaper and online between now and December 24.

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.

Food, which includes the fixings for a holiday dinner as well as staples for the pantry, is ordered, bought, packed and distributed by employees and their family members as well as local high school and community volunteers.

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.

Operation Holiday does not accept families who have not been referred by an agency in order to protect the integrity of the program.

Operation Holiday is funded solely by readers’ contributions. All contributions are tax deductible.

Contributions can be mailed to The Mercury, Attn: Operation Holiday, PO Box 1181, Pottstown, PA 19464, or The Reporter, 307 Derstine Ave., Lansdale PA 19446. Make checks payable to "Operation Holiday."

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.

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