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Clayton Center helps with the holidays
Families dealing with disabilities get assistance

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For Gary Cherry, Sr., his fiancé Catherine Carlisle, and his three, young children, life comes with innumerable challenges.

Like many of the people who seek assistance at Clayton County Developmental Services in Morrow, a division of the Clayton Center, Cherry has children with developmental disabilities.

While Cherry's 8-year-old son, Brandon, doesn't suffer from developmental or health problems, his 9-year-old twin sons, Richard and Gary, Jr., deal with a number of developmental issues.

Richard has dual cerebral palsy and autism, while Gary, Jr., has an extreme form of cerebral palsy, is wheelchair bound, and is completely dependent on caretakers. Both children have complications related to premature birth.

For Cherry, the holidays are an extremely difficult time. Tending to their children's various medical needs, Cherry and his family find themselves with little food, money and time to work. Recently, employees of Clayton County Developmental Services pitched in to give Cherry and one other local family enough food to have an extraordinary Thanksgiving meal.

On Monday, Clayton County Developmental Services distributed to each family three large boxes filled to the brim with turkey, turkey sausage, stuffing mix, collard greens, sweet potatoes, macaroni-and-cheese mix, corn bread mix, dinner rolls, apple juice, gravy, cranberry sauce, canned goods, and various fresh fruits and vegetables. Each Thanksgiving package amounted to about $75 worth of groceries.

Peggy McIntyre, a case manager with Clayton County Developmental Services, said families of children with disabilities are often isolated and have limited resources. She said the package was assembled so people like Cherry can "enjoy the holidays just like anybody else."

"These families have more than one person in the home with disabilities and that alone brings along more challenges," said McIntyre. "We took some of the burden off of them, just to let them know that people care about them."

Cherry said the bad economy has made many local aid agencies less willing to give. He said the food from Clayton County Developmental Services was a relief.

"Today is my favorite holiday," said Cherry. "Right now, it's the best thing to happen to me all year. This is the only help we got in Clayton County.

"Financially, we're shot," Cherry continued. "We weren't expecting to have a dinner this year. It's more than a blessing."

Linnie Grier, a billing specialist with Clayton County Developmental Services, said it is important to help those in need. "When we got our committee together, we really wanted to give back," said Grier. "At any day, it can be us on the other side of the counter needing that help. We never take anything for granted."