As her 60th birthday nears, Elizabeth Smalls can’t even think about slowing down.
Unexpected upheavals have left her with a 2-year-old grandson to raise, a cancer-survivor husband to safeguard and in need of a new home. They are staying with one of their adult children in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, while they sort it all out.
It has been a lot to deal with, but Smalls tries to greet good days and bad days with the same bright smile and sunny disposition. As she recounts the troubles of the past two years, the tears come only when she ponders the worst of it — the possibility of losing her husband, her high school sweetheart and best friend across four decades. “Yes,” she says, wiping the wetness from her cheeks, “we’ve been through some things. I just give all praise and glory to the Father. I’m nothing without Him.”
She also gives thanks for HALOS, a Charleston-based nonprofit that helps adults who take in child relatives to keep them out of the foster care system. The couple took custody of their grandson after marital turmoil between the boy’s parents sparked a child welfare investigation. HALOS, backed by nearly $400,000 in grants from the Endowment, joined the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Social Services in supporting kinship caregivers like her as the pandemic weakened already precarious family budgets.
A janitorial supervisor for a Moncks Corner school, Smalls found herself out of work when the school system went to remote learning. When she finally got back on the job, she and her crew developed a classroom cleaning and safety protocol so rigorous that they called their head-to-toe protective equipment “ghostbusters gear.” The school system even made a YouTube® video.
While the worst of the pandemic recedes for many, financial aftershocks remain for the Smalls family, who lost their home due to a sudden rent spike. Living under her daughter’s roof is humbling, Smalls acknowledges. Still, she refuses to give in to despair. She keeps pressing forward, one day at a time.
“I LEAVE IT TO GOD,” SHE SAYS, HER SMILE FLASHING AGAIN. “I’M PRETTY SURE THERE’S A CLEAR GOLDEN RAINBOW WITH MY NAME ON IT SOMEWHERE.”
Photo Credit: Mic Smith
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