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MOTHER'S WISH IS TO BE REUNITED WITH CHILDREN SEPARATED BY FIRE

Christmas isn't a top priority these days for Debbie Kent of Batavia. But being home for Christmas -- well, that's another story.

The flames that gutted her trailer home this month also scattered her family to the homes of relatives and left her with nothing but the clothes she and her children were wearing.

"I have nothing," she said. "I didn't even have insurance on the trailer. It's just been devastating for us."

Fire destroyed her West Main Road mobile home during the heavy snows of Dec. 10. Ms. Kent was at work at her job as a secretary with the state Department of Environmental Conservation office in Buffalo, and two of her three children were still in school.

"The fire started when just my son was there," Ms. Kent said. "He ran out without his shoes or coat."

The blaze -- later blamed on an electrical outlet -- left only charred remains where a home filled with belongings and Christmas presents once stood.

"I had done my Christmas shopping," Ms. Kent added. "Right now, Christmas is not on the forefront of my mind. I'm just trying to find a place to live and get everyone back home."

Ms. Kent, a single mother, and her oldest son -- 14-year-old Dustin -- are staying with her parents. Her sister, she said, took in Brandon, 11, and Brittany, 8. Family members scramble to drive the kids to and from their elementary and high schools since they're now living in a different district.

Co-workers at the DEC have started an effort to conserve Christmas for the family.

"They lost everything," said Maureen Brady at the DEC, where cash collections have been taken and bins for clothing have been set up.

"The department has been rallying behind her," she added. "When you're starting from scratch and you have three children, you need help."

"They've been really good," a grateful Ms. Kent said. "A lot of people have donated used clothing and other things."

Ms. Kent, 32, earned a degree from Erie Community College a year ago but has put her plans for more education at the University at Buffalo on hold. Right now, her priorities are more immediate.

"It's a lot, mentally, to deal with," she said. "I'm just trying to get my children back together."

DEC co-workers also have set up a public assistance fund for the family. Contributions can be made to the Debbie Kent Fund, c/o M&T Bank, One M&T Plaza, Buffalo 14240, and should be marked attention: Eleanor Supples, assistant vice president.

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