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Lisa Holmes Christmas home

When word got out that Lisa Holmes was having a tough time raising her five grandkids after their father and grandfather died, generous community members stepped up and saved Christmas for the family.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

Chicago grandmother raising 5 grandchildren is surprised with bounty of Christmas gifts and decorations

Lisa Holmes has been watching over five of her grandchildren on her own for the last few months.

The kids have been living with their grandparents since losing their father in 2021. And in September, their grandfather died of a heart attack, leaving Holmes on her own.

Holmes had been so busy, she didn’t get the chance to put up lights around her house for Christmas, and was planning on a no-frills celebration this year for her family.

But on Christmas Eve, Holmes and her grandchildren were surprised with bags full of toys, carolers, holiday dinner and colorful decorations adorning her Washington Heights home.

“This means so much to me y’all,” an emotional Holmes said outside her home. “I’m very shocked. God is good.”



Lisa Holmes’ Washington Heights home Sunday

Workers with Anderson Holiday Decorations install Christmas decorations on Lisa Holmes’ Washington Heights home Sunday. Holmes is raising her late son’s five children. “I’m very shocked. God is good,” she said.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

The surprise was organized by philanthropist Early Walker, founder of the organization I’m Telling Don’t Shoot, with help from members of the Chicago police and fire departments. Walmart donated $1,000 to help with toys and decorations.

Holmes, 53, was nominated for the surprise by members of the CPD’s 22nd District who were aware of how difficult the last few months have been.

“I’m overwhelmed, I’ve been going through a lot,” Holmes said. “I’ve just been doing what I have to do as a grandmother, as a sister, as a mother. I’ve just been standing strong.”

Holmes and her grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 10, went out to dinner and a movie Sunday afternoon. While they were out, workers with Holiday Decorating by Anderson strung blue and white lights on her roof.

They tied red bows on her fence, and installed an inflatable Santa and an Olaf — the snowman from the Disney movie “Frozen” — on her front lawn. The workers even decorated a Christmas tree that had been bare in the living room.



Lisa Holmes and her grandchildren

Lisa Holmes and her grandchildren were stunned as vehicles loaded with toys stopped outside their Washington Heights home Sunday. The family were also treated to a holiday Caribbean meal from Jerk 48, all thanks to philanthropist Early Walker, members of the Chicago police and fire departments, and Walmart.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

When the family finally pulled up to their newly decorated home, one of the children said, “For a second I didn’t think that was our house.” Holmes stood outside the home with a big smile on her face, dabbing her eyes as her grandchildren took it all in.

But the surprises didn’t end there. Jerk 48, a Caribbean restaurant, dropped of trays of jerk chicken alfredo, rice and peas, cabbage, candied yams, and desserts, giving Holmes a night off from cooking dinner.

Finally, a tow truck and a trolley decorated as Santa and his reindeer delivered bags of goodies for the kids. Chicago police officers and members of the Black Fire Brigade, which recruits, trains and mentors people to increase the ranks of Black firefighters. acted as Santa’s helpers, carrying the bags into the home.

There were so many toy cars, dolls, balls, playing cards, electronics and art supplies that the children didn’t know where to start.



Vehicles loaded with toys and carolers led by a Chicago police escort

Vehicles loaded with toys and carolers led by a Chicago police escort drive to Lisa Holmes’ house Sunday. “This particular family, I just felt they were deserving of this, you know,” philanthropist Early Walker said.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

“This particular family, I just felt they were deserving of this, you know,” Walker said. “To have lost her son, and then to have lost her help, which was her husband, it’s like, wow.”

Shatorry Jessup, Holmes’ daughter, said she was glad that her mom got some recognition for the incredible job she’s done raising five grandchildren in her home.

“She’s an amazing grandma, an amazing mom. I don’t think anyone deserved this more than her,” Jessup said. “These kids have been through so much. I’m happy she was picked and that the kids were able to experience this.”



Lisa Walker and her grandchildren

Lisa Walker and her grandchildren pick through the mountains of toys and other gifts they received Sunday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere



Lisa Holmes and her grandchildren with Black Fire Brigade

Lisa Holmes and her grandchildren listen as members of the Black Fire Brigade and community members sing Christmas carols outside their home.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere

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