LIMA — Just being a mother at the age of 16 is a world of challenges on its own.However, having a husband and a father who is an alcoholic, who is abusive and won’t work — those challenges become a world of hardship, loneliness and fear.The end result: A woman’s childhood can disappear overnight. In some cases, it’s replaced by “all the responsibilities of an adult life,” including financial problems that never seem to go away.Just ask Kelly (not her real name).When Kelly moved to Lima from Tennessee earlier this year, she’d already been through a lot. At the age of 21, she and her husband’s marriage was on the rocks. So, they came here hoping for a fresh start, hoping to revitalize their marriage and give it a second chance.Needless to say, it didn’t work out. He kept drinking. Their marriage fell apart. And now she’s left picking up the pieces of her and her children’s lives.As Christmas rolls around the corner, Kelly doesn’t know how she is going to provide her three children with the things they deserve this year.Kelly has a girl, who is 2, and two boys, ages 3 and 4. Because of her situation with her estranged husband, Michael (not his real name), Kelly and her three children are forced to live in a spare bedroom at her mother’s place in Shawnee.“I feel like I am so in debt,” she said. “I have bills from the house we lived at before and those are going to collection agencies. I have to get my car fixed because he wrecked it. … There’s so much I have to pay for and I’m not making any money. … I just recently got a job as a waitress, finally.”Because her children are not old enough to be in school, Kelly said she has to feed them three meals a day, which is a challenging task — let alone having to worry about getting them presents for Christmas.“I don’t like asking for help for my kids’ Christmas,” she said. “They’re my kids. I should be able to take care of them.”To help things and maintain hope, Kelly tells her children to focus on the future — on the positive and what’s important.“I try to explain to my kids it [Christmas] is not about the presents,” she said. “It’s Jesus’ birthday. But when they’re little and they see everyone else getting presents, they ask ‘Where’s mine?’”After seeing commercials for toys on television, she said the children ask for things. Each time they do, she tells them she’ll try.“They’re young,” she said. “I am hoping they don’t remember this. I try to teach them it’s more about being family — spending time with family and remembering Jesus.”Looking to the future, Kelly said things can improve if she can get a divorce and start going to school next fall.“That’s what I have to look forward to — going to school,” she said. “I want my kids to have a better life.”By the first of the year, Kelly said she hopes to have an income-based apartment. If that happens, she said she’ll be able to work part time to pay the bills while she goes to school.“Otherwise, I’d never get to see my kids,” she said. “That’s keeping me going: I look forward to taking classes at Apollo [Career Center] next fall to be” a licensed practical nurse.The Empty Stocking Fund benefits three cooperating agencies: Bradfield Community Center, Cheryl Allen Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army. Money can be donated by writing to The Lima News. It is deposited in an account at the Huntington Bank. It is then distributed to the three agencies. Donations of new toys, nonperishable food items and personal hygiene products will be accepted at The Lima News office at 3515 Elida Road for distribution to the agencies. For a complete list of stories, or to donate online, go to www.limaohio.com/stocking.