Irish emigrant wins hearts after rescuing great granddaughter
Published 28/12/2011 | 05:00
THE story of an Irish great grandmother who took in her granddaughter's youngest child after drug abuse devastated the family is the feelgood story for New Yorkers this Christmas.
Kathy Mallon's story has been highlighted by the influential 'New York Times' newspaper which invites readers to contribute to its "neediest cases" fund every year.
Originally from Molly Hill, Co Longford, Mrs Mallon left Ireland in 1964 at the age of 17 for a new life in America.
She made the decision after escaping from a Co Monaghan convent where she worked as a cleaner.
The 64-year-old told the Irish Independent that much like today's generation of emigrants she left to find a better life.
"There was nothing to do in Ireland. America was beautiful," she said last night.
However, she was soon living a harsher reality when she split with her husband and was forced to raise a son and two daughters on her own, working in a local bar.
And Mrs Mallon began looking after Tianna, her three-year-old great granddaughter, two years ago, after picking her up from a police station.
Kathy's granddaughter, the child's mother, had given birth to Tianna at 17.
But she was arrested and had to give up the child, who was only one at the time.
Mrs Mallon took responsibility for the little girl after picking her up from the police station, gripping a dirty blanket, with her teeth rotting.
She worked as a health care aide but had to give it up and live on welfare because Tianna had problems from her difficult start in life.
The pair have survived on social security, disability benefits and food stamps.
When they needed help to pay the electricity bill recently they asked the local branch of the Jewish Association Serving the Aging for help.
Mrs Mallon said she was "shocked" after her story then came to the attention of the 'New York Times'.
"I didn't know it was going to be such a big story," she said.
She is now going to campaign for a 'Tianna's Law' which would allow grandparents and great grandparents to claim assistance if they take legal custody of children.
Tianna and her great grandmother live in a high-rise apartment in Far Rockaway Park, a depressed area with high crime levels.
But Mrs Mallon said that Tianna's life has been turned right around.
"She's such a good kid, I told her about the story of Christmas, so she wanted to get a cake for Jesus for his birthday," she said.
"So that's what we did for Christmas, we got a cake and blew out the candles."
The last time she came back to Ireland was in the 1990s when one of her brothers died.
"I do wish I could get home in the future, but with my financial situation I'm not sure how possible that's going to be."