This Christmas, Rhonda won't be home for the holidays.
In mid-November, the Rock Hill mother left an abusive home situation and took her five children to the Salvation Army's homeless shelter. Though it's not a traditional home, the shelter already has been a blessing to the family.
"Most of the people that I've met are real sweet, real nice," Rhonda said. "They've helped us out a lot."
The children -- ages 15, 13, 11, 9 and 5 -- are looking forward to Christmas, but Rhonda can't afford to buy gifts for them this year. She can't bear to disappoint her kids either, so she is turning to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree for help.
"It would mean a lot to me," Rhonda said. "I sit there and I cry because I can't do it."
Because so many more families need help this Christmas, The Herald's Empty Stocking Fund will donate all its money this year to two local holiday toy programs -- Toys for Happiness and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.
With some of her fears relieved, Rhonda has started studying for her GED at the Adult Education Center. She hopes to continue on to York Technical College and perhaps become a phlebotomist. The children are doing better, too, she said.
"They like coming home now. They're not scared."
Though the children would all like a Wii, and the 11-year-old wants his own PS2, Rhonda knows that just having something to open on Christmas morning will give them joy.
"They are satisfied and happy with whatever you get."
About the Empty Stocking Fund
The Empty Stocking Fund, organized by The Herald, is an annual holiday effort to help needy families in the newspaper's readership area. This year, the fund will donate all its money to two local programs that provide Christmas gifts to needy children. The two programs are TOYS FOR HAPPINESS, created by WRHI radio and the United Way of York County, and the Salvation Army's ANGEL TREE. Contributions to the Empty Stocking Fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 10921, Rock Hill, SC 29731, or dropped off at The Herald, 132 W. Main St., Rock Hill. Contributors' names will be published in The Herald.