For more informaiton on grandparents raising grandchildren, see the Never Empty Nest series on The News Courier's home page.

When Ciera Leigh Scruggs was 9 months old, she couldn’t shake a bad cold. Her father, Timothy Joe Scruggs, walked the baby across his yard in rural Limestone County to the home of his parents, Sherry and Ray Scruggs.

At the time, Tim worked long hours at CPI, a manufacturer of aluminum equipment inside trucks and ambulances, so Sherry suggested her son also bring over his other daughter, Kimothy Jo, then 3.

The girls have lived with their grandparents ever since.

“Their dad has custody and spends a lot of time with them,” Sherry said. But when Tim’s wife packed and left him and the girls behind more than 10 years ago, he didn’t have as many resources as his parents to care for the girls.

The Scruggs are more fortunate than many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The majority are single grandmothers who live on fixed incomes, about 20 percent in poverty, according to the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

The Scruggs, though they have had to postpone retirement, enjoy being able to provide for their granddaughters.

Sherry, 56, a school bus driver, and Ray, 58, who owns a backhoe business, have permanent guardianship of the girls.

“Financially, we support the girls,” Ray said. Sherry said they pay the bills and clothe and feed the girls, while Tim pays half of Kim’s private school tuition and buys the girls other things they may want.

The girls are able to do most of the same things as others their age, such as have sleepovers, play softball and attend various summer and church camps, Sherry said. Kim also races go-carts, joining the family tradition of amateur car racing.

“It’s different,” Sherry acknowledges. “Our boys didn’t do anything like that.”

Often, when Sherry accompanies the girls to events such as 4-H camp, she is the oldest “mom” there.

“Most of the women are half her age,” Ray said, adding, “It’s kept us younger.”

Ciera and Kim are able to participate in more activities than if they lived with their single dad, Ray said. Though Tim remarried in July, Ray said the girls will stay with them.

“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to do for these girls like we couldn’t do for our own,” he said.

With college only a few years away for 14-year-old Kim, Ray said he realizes retirement is unlikely any time soon.

The girls’ mother has visited them off and on over the years. Ray said, but is not a regular presence in their lives.

Sherry and Ray said they rely on their extended family and church congregation to help raise the girls.

“We’ve been well blessed to have so many other people around,” he said. “We’ve always been a close family.”

Sherry agreed. “I can call any of them anytime.”

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