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She was living in a shack, strangers helped turn life around

December 7, 2018

EDWARDS, Miss. (AP) — For the first time in years, Clara Daniels can finally sleep at night. Her depression has lessened, and she laughs at her own jokes. She goes to church regularly and visits the senior citizen center every morning where she plays bingo and does crossword puzzles.

It’s a vast difference from her life less than one year ago.

“It was a long haul to get where we are now,” she said last week. “God is a good God and he got us to this point.”

In January, the Clarion Ledger visited Clara, 67, and her son William, 35, at their Edwards home after the nonprofit Mississippi Center for Police and Sheriffs brought up her plight. The house was falling down around them, and the two were trying their best to make do. More often than not, though, Clara went days without eating. With no running water, the two would use the bathroom in the woods.

William, who has always stayed close to his mother, was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia and was in and out of hospitals as a child. When the Clarion Ledger first met him, he talked of suicide.

Clara said she was tired down to her bones. Someone had donated a mobile home to the family, but they couldn’t afford to hook up the septic tank. It sat behind the home, vacant, while Clara and William put blankets on space heaters to keep out the cold.

After the story published, donations began pouring in. Over $29,000 was donated to Clara and William via a GoFundMe page.

It changed their lives, she said.

“I never knew that people cared so much until the donations started to come in,” she said. “I’m proud now that we have a better place than the shack over there.

“I was tired in 2015, but when God got tired of me, of us, living that way he sent these people. Everybody that came here, I told them, ‘Now y’all didn’t come on your own...God sent you.’”

In May, Clara used $14,500 of the donations to purchase a 1996 model mobile home. It needed some work, and the two moved in in July.

She’s grateful for the new home. It’s bigger than the other mobile home, she said, but Clara wonders if she got taken advantage of in the deal. She was told the home would come fully furnished. It didn’t. She was told it would have new flooring. It didn’t. She had to spend more money to have the carpet torn out and vinyl flooring put in. She has plans to get an electric stove and put a deck on both the front and back.

William said he’s happy as long as his mother is happy but thinks walls could use “some paint to cover up the blemishes.”

On a tour of the home, Clara proudly shows off her bathroom. It has a “Jacuzzi” tub and she starts each day by taking a bath, sometimes for “30 minutes or an hour.”

Pictures and tapestries of Jesus adorn the walls, along with the artwork Clara finds on the side of the road. She recently found one with a silly poem that cracks her up every time she reads it. William is mortified by his mother’s penchant for taking the abandoned items, and the two laugh about the time she pulled over and made William get out of the car to retrieve some item or another.

Clara’s bedroom is on one side of the home, and William’s on the other. Each has a bathroom. The two are separated by a kitchen, living room and guest bedroom.

William said he often locks himself up in his room and demands Clara stay on “her side” of the mobile home. He plays video games a lot and largely likes to keep to himself but he brags about the fact he arranged the furniture in the living room and decorated it for his mom. Clara’s collectibles of miniature toys from fast food restaurants are on display in a china cabinet donated by the church.

The atmosphere inside the home feels lighter; the two seem happy.

She refers to her other home as a “shack,” and said living there was “holy hell.”

“It made me feel worthless,” she said.

“When I was over there, I never went too many places. It was somewhat like, when I would leave home, I would try to stay away as long as I could because I didn’t like being in that condition but I knew at some point I had to come back because of William. Then I would come back and I would sit up and do nothing.”

The two have settled into life in their new home. After Clara returns from her mornings at the senior center, she and William may drive into town to buy groceries or go to dinner. William said he cooks “somewhat” in the kitchen, but they don’t have gas hooked up to work the stove. They haven’t tried to turn on the dishwasher and don’t know if it works. Clara prefers to wash the dishes by hand.

To those who donated to her and William, Clara had a message of gratitude:

“You all have made me one of the happiest old women this side of the Mississippi River,” she said. “I hope that, I pray that God would bless you 100 fold to the donations you contributed because you didn’t have to do it...we are forever grateful.”

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Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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