The spirit of giving at Coffee’s old house!

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Coffee, that’s our mom’s nick name. She’s an angel watching over us now some 19 years! If there was anything we learned from our mom growing up in the projects, it was to GIVE!

We didn’t have much and relied on food stamps and the welfare system. It’s funny though, with a huge family like ours (12 children) mom fed the neighborhood and anyone else who stopped by for a visit. She fed the rag man and all our childhood friends we brought home with us. She gave so much of herself and now we see that we have become our mother in so many ways!

My brother Michael started a tradition seven years ago at mom’s old house, which includes family members, cousins, nephews, nieces, friends and anyone who wants to get in the act of helping those less fortunate. I call it a family affair and it can be addicting giving back to the community.

We have Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus entertaining at the old house two times a year, one time after Thanksgiving and another time before Christmas. We get the word out to ask family and friends for donations of slightly used toys, new toys, and money to buy toys. We ask for volunteers to dress in any costume they want and help pass out gifts to the kids. The porch is full on both sides with donations and soon the fun begins. The sidewalk has kids lined up waiting to see Santa to receive a few surprise gifts!

We had Santa and Mrs. Claus played by my siblings and our friends on different occasions. We had many elves who make the cocoa and pass out gifts, a couple of Santa’s dogs, Olaf, clowns to pass out the candy canes. We had Raggedy Anne and Andy to represent toys of Christmas past, and so on.

We have volunteers who take photos (including myself) and you will see some pictures with this story to give you an idea of the fun it is to be part of the excitement! I always let the folks know to come back in two weeks so they can have a hard copy of their family picture. Yes, we even put Mom and Dad in the act whether they want to or not. We also let them take as many pictures as they want with their own phones!

“Christmas is for kids!”, Mom always said, but she never told us how much fun it was to dress-up and play the character you came as! It’s also fun to watch the children being secretive, telling Santa what they want for Christmas or desperately trying to get off his lap, crying.

We have volunteers that help out at the last minute not knowing what they had to do and enjoyed it so much they came back to help out again. The lights are strung and a fake fireplace is out with frosty. The Christmas music fills the air and you will hear our angelic voices singing to the sounds of a flapper or a tambourine. (Geez, I wonder who could be making all that beautiful noise of bells clanging to a Ludwig?”)

Bringing the spirit of Christmas makes our family and family of friends all feel good. That is one reason why we stand out in the freezing cold to see the kids smile and to hear the sound of laughter! We don’t freeze for long because Santa’s elf, Jingles, makes the cocoa for the volunteers.

I am not going to give all the names of every helper but hopefully I didn’t leave anyone out in the photos.

My brother Michael, age 64, started this tradition at Mom’s old house and it has gotten bigger and better every year, with help from so many. Again, I call it a family affair, with friends! He beat bladder cancer and now is battling Lymphoma cancer and likes to stay busy. All year long we take hand-me-down clothes to pass on to others in need!

I interviewed my brother to make sure I got things right and when I asked him why he started this tradition, he said because of You many years ago. I was a little confused.

He reminded me that about 40 years ago, he knew a man who wanted to get games off his hands that wasn’t a big seller. He told this man that my sister Gail and I will distribute them in the neighborhood.

It was only at that moment when he spoke of this, that I remembered him and me dressing as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus!!! We walked around the neighborhood knocking on doors of people we didn’t know to give gifts of games to their kids. OMG!!! We didn’t drive and never expected that many games. I think we had at least 150 board games. So many of the same name and we walked and walked and knocked and knocked till we got rid of them all!!!

My brother Michael reminded me of a memory I had forgotten, a memory of having a blast handing out gifts to people we didn’t know and feeling good about it!

“Got older kids? Here ya go! Merry Christmas!”

Here we are at it again, but with many more family members involved. Mom is surely proud that we follow in her footsteps! We became our mother!!!! It’s no wonder she was “Mother of the year” in 1981!

Recently my brother found out that someone had no food and he made sure he gave them something to fill their bellies with.

Another brother saw on a website that a woman had nothing for her son for Christmas. He told her to come and get his mountain bike as he didn’t ride it enough. She came and the hug he received was enough for him as the woman shed tears!

I could go on. Mom instilled in us to help others out when and if we can. Mom may not be in that house anymore but her spirit carries on with the gift of giving!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours this year and have a Healthy 2018!

God Bless you all!!!

Oh yeah….one more thing…….

Coffee says Hi!!!! Pass it along!

Gail Durant is the fourth-oldest from a family of 13 children. She has lived in Manchester her whole life with the exception of one year in Hillsboro. She worked for 41 years in shoe shops, laundry and manufacturing and fully retired five years ago. She lost her husband Bob almost three years ago to brain cancer, and is currently writing a book about their love story, Bob’s diagnosis, and the signs she receives from him, to this day. Proceeds from the book will go to charities to help children in some way and also for brain cancer research.  She resides in Manchester and has a daughter she adopted a few years ago, who came into her life at age 7 and is now 40. She has enjoyed photography most of her life, and loves taking random shots, and spinning the thoughts she has into stories, with pictures. She can be reached at

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