Francesca McCall is a woman of her word. When she was younger, the Birmingham mother and her younger sister, Chantale, promised they would take care of the other's children if either of them were to die young. McCall found herself facing this tragic situation earlier this year, when Chantale and her brother-in-law Rance Martin died of COVID-19 just one month apart.
Following the loss, McCall took in Chantale's children who ranged between the ages of 2 to 17. The mother already had seven of her own kids under one roof, which brought the household's total number of children to 12.
"We have all the boys in one room and we have all the girls in the other two rooms, so everybody's kind of just on top of one another," she said, as reported by CNN. "So we've been making the best out of the situation."
McCall said her sister was first hospitalized with disease back in September, and appeared to be improving before her condition drastically worsened and she was placed on a ventilator. McCall said her sister worked for a home health agency and always took precautions.
"She wore the mask, she kept her distance, she did the proper hand washing and all the proper things she was supposed to do," McCall said.
Chantale—who had underlying health conditions, including bronchitis and asthma—died on Sept. 16, about two weeks after she was first hospitalized. Martin died on Oct. 25, which would've been Chantale's 35th birthday. None of the other family members tested positive for the virus.
McCall's nieces and nephews moved from Selma, where they lived with their parents, to McCall's home in Birmingham. The children are all reportedly going to school remotely, while McCall works from home.
"They're doing OK at times and at times they break down, so they're having their days and their moments," McCall said about her nieces and nephews. "It's been very hard losing their friends, church family and basically everything that's held dear to them."
Carla McDonald, McCall's friend from church, helped create a GoFundMe campaign for large family. As of Thursday night, the campaign had received nearly $300,000 in donations from more than 5,400 people.
"She loves these children with all of [her] heart," McDonald said in a letter. "She is not the one to ask for assistance from anyone. She is just trying to raise 12 children and meet their everyday needs not only for Christmas."