BRIDGEPORT – “I love him, I can’t help it, I was there from day one,” said Gloria Hunt of Milford, who is still there for her grand-nephew, Xavier. “His mom had some issues where she couldn’t take care of him.”
So, she went to court to become his kinship caregiver to keep him out of foster care, a role she didn’t expect to have at 68 years old.
“It’s a lot of work, I forgot what it’s like, I raised three of my own,” she said.
Hunt, who had to stop work and is living in senior housing with the toddler, scoured the internet for support and found a unique program run by The Salvation Army.
“Of course, we needed food from the pantry and diapers,” says Hunt.
“We can help them out with mortgage, rental, electricity,” adds Jacqueline Balarezo who is passionate about her work with the Grandfamilies Together program in Bridgeport. There’s a similar group in Hartford.
Statistics show the stressors of the pandemic have forced more older people to take custody of young family members.
Balarezo says some situations don’t work out. Other relationships like the one between Gloria and Xavier thrive.
“You see, she’s full of life, full of energy, she takes that baby and is proud of taking that baby,” says Balarezo.
“It’s not a duty, it’s from the heart,” says Gloria who hopes the boy is reunited with his mother someday. Until then, she’ll continue to raise the child with help from The Salvation Army.
“I hope other people will see this and know that it’s out there and take advantage of it if they need it,” says Gloria. “I’ve been blessed, I really have.”
Grandfamilies Together meets twice a month with about 25 participants.
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