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9751: Granddad gets kids on right road (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Granddad gets kids on right road
But now he needs help with old car
BY BRAD BENNETT
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
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.
DIGNITY AND FOCUS
``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
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
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
``All these are my grandchildren,'' he says, spreading his arms in the
classroom. ``I must have 45 of them.''
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