SANDUSKY, OH (WTOL) - "They know mommy's dead," explained Keli Clark of her 4-year-old twin grandchildren. "They know she went to Heaven, they don't understand that it's a permanent thing."
The opioid epidemic has struck everyone in our community, but some of those hardest hit are the innocent children in our area.
One mother who lost her daughter to an overdose, not only took in her 4-year-old twins, but is now is helping others in the same boat for Christmas.
She was a daughter, a sister, a friend and mother. On July 30th this year at just 35-years-old, an overdose took Noelle Maschari's life.
Noelle left behind three children; an 18-year-old and 4-year-old twin boys who now live with Noelle's mother Keli.
"She went on a Saturday to try to get into another rehab (clinic) and they didn't have any beds for her," said Keli."They told her if she came back the next day, on Sunday at noon, they would have a bed for her. Unfortunately, 11 hours before that she overdosed and passed away."
They started Project Noelle as a way to honor her legacy.
They're collecting stuffed animals, clothes, toys even hygiene products for local kids in need.
"Seeing what these boys have gone through, not understanding what happened and where is mommy, and not getting it," said Keli Clark. "I thought 'I know she loved her kids and let's do something in memory for her, of her, for other kids that are going through the same thing.'"
Her daughter has not even been gone for six months but Keli's found a mission.
They are collecting new items for boys and girls from infants to teens for Child and Family Service of Erie County.
Since she began collecting several partners have joined in to collect items for the kids, like the Sandusky Artisans and Crystal Tower.
They are hoping to give gifts to every child affected by the opioid epidemic this Christmas.
"We're all supposed to help each other out," said Clark. "Especially these little innocent kids at Christmas. Let's put everything aside and try to put a smile on these kids' faces."
Sandusky's Project Noelle will collect items at The Sanctuary (211 E. Monroe St., Sandusky) on Saturday December 9th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you know a child in or around Erie County affected by the opioid epidemic and want them to receive gifts you can contact Keli Clark at 419-271-2107.
Keli Clark says those involved in the toy drive have been encouraged by the support so far, but are hopeful to help several others this Christmas and are already planning more for next year.