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'It's very hard right now' for mom, 3 kids

A few months ago, Beverly Clay was desperate.

The East Side mother of six had finally found a home for herself and her three youngest children after the family spent some time living on the streets.

But she had no washer, no dryer, and faced the prospect of a Christmas season without many gifts, or a holiday dinner.

She has some help now, though, including from the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Amherst.

"We got [the washer] set up for them, and we were just praying they could get the thing down these rickety, horrible stairs," said St. Vincent volunteer Pat Traves. "The boys said they were going to do it, so they did it. It was an amazing adventure."

Last weekend, Traves and volunteer Paul Smith also presented Clay and her family with a Christmas basket, complete with an 18-pound turkey and all the fixings for dinner.

The society is happy to serve a community that's in serious need. After leaving Clay's home, its members traveled to two other city homes that would have been without a holiday meal.

"We tried to make [the Clays] feel at ease," Traves said, "because you know its a hard thing to ask for help, so we bring them a couple of bags of food from our food pantry, partly as an icebreaker."

Clay, 42, earned an associate's degree at Erie Community College after overcoming domestic issues and a related illness. She is looking for a job at a nursing home or as home health care aide but said that, without a car, it has been hard to find something.

Three of her children still live with her in the family's Doat Street home. Clay lives on Supplemental Security Income and said she's having a hard time providing for daughters Breonia, 12, and Dahshelle, 15, and son Calvin, 18.

"It's very hard right now," she said. "Even though it's down to three children, they're at that age. They don't expect a whole lot because they never got a whole lot, but they're more into games and stuff like that, and that's hard for me to do when we only have that one income right now."

The Buffalo News Neediest Fund is also stepping in to help the Clay family. Last year, the fund and its partners distributed more than $700,000 in food and toys to more than 12,000 families and 14,000 children in Western New York.

If Clay could afford Christmas presents for her kids, she would buy Breonia a medium shirt, size 11-12 pants, size 6 boots and an iPod. Dahshelle asked for the same-size pants, size 8 boots and a personal DVD player.

Calvin is growing faster than Beverly can afford. The 6-foot-4 teen wears size 36 pants and 3X or 4X T-shirts. And Clay's looking for any way she can find access to a car.

"It would help me more than ever to look for employment," she said. "God, I am so overwhelmed right now, and so thankful."

Asked what she would do if she ever got ahead and found a job, Clay wasn't hesitant:

"My dream is one day in life, if I can get on top, I know what it's like to be helped, and I'd love to help out a family if I can."

e-mail: cspecht@buffnews.com

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