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9751: Granddad gets kids on right road (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Granddad gets kids on right road
But now he needs help with old car

With a stern yet nurturing voice, Antonio Durand encourages four students in 
the back of a third-grade class at North Side Elementary School in Fort 

``Eight plus eight. You should be able to do it by head. But if you can't do 
it by head, use some blocks,'' he tells the young, Haitian-born children as 
they struggle to master English and math with a cluster of plastic counting 
cubes at their fingertips. ``What's that? Sixteen? Now you are going to 
write the whole number.''

Known affectionately as ``Grandpa Tony,'' the Haitian-born Durand, 84, of 
Fort Lauderdale, volunteers four hours a day through a foster grandparents 
program, where he tutors young Haitian children in need of just a little 
extra help.

Now, as the Christmas holidays approach, it is Durand who needs help, enough 
money to help him pay a year's worth of car insurance.

``That's all he really needs,'' said Madeline W. Martin, project director of 
the foster grandparent program of Broward Grandparents, Inc., who nominated 
Durand for The Herald's Wish Book.

``His car is pretty beaten up,'' Martin said of Durand's 1985 Mercury Grand 
Marquis, which costs him $524 every six months to insure.

``I kind of fell behind on the insurance payment. I'm not asking anybody to 
pay my insurance in full,'' he said, adding that lending money to some 
friends and buying tickets to Haiti for others have hurt him financially. 
``Due to my pride, I will try to squeeze to make ends meet.''

Fluent in Haitian Creole, French, Spanish and English, Durand is one of 198 
foster grandparents, many of them serving in Broward schools. They earn a 
$2.55-an-hour stipend, but can make no more than $890 a month to stay in the 
program. Durand some months makes as little as $200 to augment his meager 
Social Security payment.


``You're looking at trying to keep a senior independent, contributing back 
to the community as well as keeping their own self sustained in their own 
independence,'' Martin said, adding that Durand's dignity and focus on young 
Haitian immigrants helped earn him the group's nomination.

``He comes with such enthusiasm and motivation,'' said Michaelle ``Mickey'' 
Valbrun-Pope, principal at the predominantly Haitian North Side school. 
``The kids respond really well to him because he's just very lovable.''

With his short, gray hair, a black blazer, a white shirt with a black and 
tan tie, and sharply pressed tan pants, Durand is the picture of a dignified 

``Sometimes he makes us laugh,'' said Renande Marchand, 8, one of his 

``He makes us learn,'' said Dorise Michel, another 8-year-old.


Born poor in Haiti in 1917, Durand had big dreams of becoming a lawyer. He 
finished high school and college in Haiti, and did a year of law school 
before his parents told him they could no longer afford it.

He came to New York in 1949, got a part-time job as a hospital orderly, and 
enrolled in an architecture school.

``There I encountered a big disappointment because I was the only Negro in 
the classroom,'' he said.

One day, he found the classroom empty.

``They went to a field trip and they omitted to let me know. Why? Because I 
was black,'' he said, adding that studying architecture requires field trips 
to buildings.

He quit architecture school.

But while Durand laments how racists tried to hold him back, he smiles when 
remembering the Jewish man who gave him a chance to start making patterns 
for clothes.

Nineteen years later, using his work experience, he became assistant 
director of the Haitian Community Center in New York, where he helped 
Haitian immigrants with immigration, translation and job searches. At his 
own expense and in his own car, he frequently gave poor Haitian immigrants 
rides around the city and to Long Island to help them find jobs and housing.

``When you get to heaven you will be paid back,'' he said.

Fed up with the snow, he moved to Florida in 1976 and held several jobs, one 
authorizing credit cards, others as security officer, eyeglass polisher, and 
even a stint helping people apply for Social Security cards.

Now an American citizen, ``Grandpa Tony'' has worked with Broward 
Grandparents for seven years. He has no grandchildren of his own, though he 
did marry.

``All these are my grandchildren,'' he says, spreading his arms in the 
classroom. ``I must have 45 of them.''

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