Woman took in young grandchildren as her own after daughter’s tragic death

Campaign gives children in El Paso, New Mexico new winter coats Wochit

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From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, the El Paso Times on Sundays featured families who are being helped through the El Paso Times Senior Fund and Operation Noel giving campaigns. Although we highlight the campaigns during the holidays, donations are needed year-round to help those in need.

Jenny Rojas went from mom to grandma in a deadly instant eight years ago.

Her daughter, Arcie, died in a car crash near Las Cruces as she was driving back from California in 2009.

"After she died, I started raising the kids as my own," Rojas said about her grandchildren, Markus Lozano and Jaqueline Guzman, who were only 3 years old and 18 months old, respectively, at the time. "It was a hard time."

Rojas, 44, has worked on and off, but has mostly been a stay-at-home mom to the kids, both of whom have attention deficit disorder.

Markus is now 11 and Jaqueline is 10. They live with Rojas, who shares her home with another daughter and four other grandchildren ranging in age from 7 months to 5 years old.

It’s a full house, Rojas said, but it’s full of love and fun as the children love art, books, soccer — and drones.

The children will receive coats through Operation Noel.

More: Children begin to thrive after escaping violence in Mexico when their home burned down

Other families receiving winter coats through Operation Noel this year:

The four children in the Rodriguez-Hernandez family won’t likely have presents this Christmas. Their mom, Sandra Hernandez, says that while that breaks her heart, she knows they understand the family has greater needs. Among them, beds and a sofa for their humble home in Northeast El Paso. Hernandez has had difficulty finding a job, and also takes care of her elderly parents, including her disabled father.The Saya family’s Christmas list starts with a simple but likely impossible ask: More space. The family of five includes three young children, ages 1, 2, and 3 years old, and live in a small Lower Valley apartment under the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso. Despite having only a small living space, the family could use beds, dressers and other basic furniture.Violeta Hernandez escaped domestic violence in Mexico and came to the United States in search of safety and opportunity. Her son, now 7, has severe allergies, asthma and attention deficit disorder, which makes it difficult for her to find full-time work that gives her flexibility to care for him. She found housing in Central El Paso, but lacks basic necessities to make her house a home, including a TV.

Operation Noel is sponsored by HUB International, Mattress Firm, the El Paso Times and Channel 7-KVIA, which had a telethon Nov. 30 to help raise funds.

The El Paso Times Senior Fund pays for hearing aids, incontinence supplies, glasses and other items that Medicaid does not typically cover for area low-income seniors. It also pays for ramps, grab bars, shower chairs and other equipment and work needed to help the elderly get around safely.

More: From hearing aids to wheelchair ramps, El Paso Times Senior Fund helps vulnerable elderly

More: When construction work is scarce, family turns to selling tamales to make ends meet

Here are some of their stories:

Take it from this 74-year-old: Never take your health for granted.

This senior says she wishes she was as healthy as she was in her younger years.

She now battles several chronic conditions, which are mostly under control through medication. But the medications, she says, are now giving her side effects. Among them are dental issues, and she can’t afford to see a dentist about them.

She says her life is made bearable by her longtime husband who has been her biggest supporter.

Others being helped through the Senior Fund:

At 65, this retired senior says he would like to go back to work if he could get hearing aids. He says he’d love to hear his grandson better, especially when he calls him from across the room.This senior also would like to work or volunteer, but her health issues required that she retire early. That meant she lost her health coverage and could use some assistance with her prescriptions.At 67, this senior is bound to a wheelchair and is unable to walk. He recalls living out by Hueco Tanks and being independent, but now requires more care. He could use a bathroom modification to help him shower and move around more easily.

The El Paso Times Senior Fund distributes donations to area seniors referred by the Rio Grande Council of Government’s Area Agency on Aging.

Operation Noel

Operation Noel provides more than 20,000 coats to needy children throughout the El Paso and New Mexico area. It is sponsored by HUB International, Mattress Firm, the El Paso Times and Channel 7-KVIA.

Donations can be sent to Operation Noel, 201 E. Main St., Suite 1603, El Paso, TX 79901. Information: 351-0408 or operationnoel.org.

El Paso Times Senior Fund

The El Paso Times Senior Fund provides hearing aids, dental assistance and other medical services, as well as ADA accommodations, to older adults referred to the Rio Grande Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.

Donations can be sent to the El Paso Times Senior Fund, 500 W. Overland Ave., Suite 150, El Paso, TX 79901. Information: 533-0998, ext. 116.

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