HAVERTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On any given day, you may see Karen Barnes and her granddaughter Ellianna busy sorting in Denis' Pantry in Havertown, Delaware County.
Barnes is the founder of Grands Stepping Up, which serves grandparents and kinship family members raising grandchildren.
Grands Stepping Up was founded in early 2020, before the pandemic hit our area.
Throughout the pandemic, Barnes and Grands Stepping Up have helped caregivers support their families in a multitude of ways, including providing food and goods through Denis' Pantry.
The pantry was named for Barnes' brother who died of COVID-19.
Barnes' own journey raising her granddaughter began nine years ago.
"It would have made such a difference in what I was trying to do by keeping my granddaughter safe out of the foster care system," Barnes said.
The pantry, inside Llanerch Hills Chapel, will assist anyone in the community, but primarily grand-families.
Pastor Mike Emge said the group has helped so many.
"There are people who have gone to prison, there are people that have died, there are people that have been displaced, so what happens to the family unit? They're kind of left on their own," Emge said. "Thank God for Karen and Grands Stepping Up because we have a place now where they can come, and they can get what they need."
Barnes says that in the state of Pennsylvania alone, nearly 202,000 children live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives.
When Grands Stepping Up started, they offered assistance to 20 grand-families. Now, they help more than 75.
Mary Eileen Johnston discovered the group on social media.
"You know what you're going through as a grandparent doing this, and you want to see others being helped as well as helping," Johnston explained, as she held her grandson Ben, who is 4-years old.
Johnston added, "The experience has taught me- the more the merrier. It's not misery loves company here. This is the more the merrier."
Barnes stresses this is a holistic approach and that while food and clothing donations are necessary, they are only the beginning .
The group also offers legal and financial services, social activities, and trauma focused therapeutic services for grandparents and children.
"Can you just imagine, one day you are living with your parents and the next day your life looks completely different?" asked Barnes.
As for what her brother Denis would think of all this?
"I think he would absolutely just love what we're doing," Barnes said. "I thought what a better way to keep his memory alive, and it helps the sting a little bit, when you're able to- every single day do something in his honor."
For more on how you can help, visit:
Havertown group helps grandparents raising grandkids
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