Michael, at left, and Marc check out crossbows during Wednesday’s shopping trip at Lovejoy Walmart. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
LOVEJOY — The five kids hurried through the clothes department of Lovejoy Walmart, grabbing shirts, socks, underwear and pajamas.
“Yes, this will do,” said David, 9. “Those socks are fine,” said Kayden, 4. “Purple is my favorite color,” said Nateria, 17.
After all, there was bigger fish to fry — the toy and electronics departments.
“I want to get over there and look at music,” said Nateria, browsing through a selection of pajamas. “I love One Direction. My bedroom walls are covered in One Direction.”
The three, along with brothers Michael, 16, and Marc, 12, got to Christmas shop Wednesday, thanks to the generosity of Walmart, said Clayton County Solicitor General’s Office administrative assistant Meg Cauchy.
“They called us and said they had $500 to spend on a family,” Cauchy said. “We found a family and took them shopping.”
Solicitor’s Investigator Joyce Prather and victims advocate Nicole Martin-Miller met the kids and mom Robin Eschman to make good use of that money. Prather shopped with the two older boys while Martin-Miller helped Nateria and the younger boys pick out the right sizes.
For Eschman, the money was a godsend.
“This will help tremendously,” she said. “This has made their Christmas. With so many kids and not a lot of money, we don’t get to do a lot throughout the year. Christmas is when they get everything they need.”
Untangling the relationships among the family would require a chart, markers and poster board, said Eschman, who is raising the children with her domestic partner of 17 years, Debra Weathers.
“Regardless of how we got them, they’re our kids,” Weathers said. “We took them in because they needed us. We love them and they’re ours.”
Eschman said the boys have been diagnosed with ADHD but they were well-behaved during the shopping trip. Martin-Miller guided the younger boys while Prather sorted through what would be appropriate for the older boys.
Nateria just enjoyed being the only girl on the spree and at home.
“I love it,” she said. “I don’t really have to share much, I have my own room.”
The mothers, called Mama and Nanny by the kids, are members of Kinship Care — a tremendous resource for grandparents raising grandkids in Clayton County. Because the women are related by blood to the children, they don’t get the same benefits that traditional foster parents do.
In essence, they are penalized for keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system. They could qualify for food stamps or other low-income benefits but they are not entitled to the same programs foster parents are for taking in someone else’s children.
Weathers works for Clayton County Senior Services but Eschman is disabled.
“We mostly stay to ourselves,” Eschman said. “We’ve got good times and bad times but we always make it through. As long as we’ve got bread in the freezer, we can make something out of it.”
The only regret is that the women don’t get to take on the roles of grandma — spoil the child and return him or her to parents.
“They’re our babies,” Eschman said. “The only part of it is we don’t get to be grandmas and spoil them. We have to be parents all the time.”
Eschman and Weathers said they appreciate the help from Walmart but that they are more concerned that their kids know the true meaning of Christmas.
“Kayden told me that the real meaning of Christmas is giving,” Eschman said. “When you get to see someone happy. That made my Christmas. A 4-year-old gets it.”