City honors teen for charity work

NASHUA – Alexis Durant is no stranger to charity, nor is she a stranger to being homeless.

“I was homeless a few times when I was younger and I know what it feels like,” Durant said while addressing Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess and members of the Board of Aldermen.

At the age of just 10 several years ago, Durant began volunteering with Harbor Homes Inc. to assist the city’s homeless population. Tuesday, Donchess and members of the board recognized Durant for her work by honoring her with a resolution.

“I just wanted to give back to the community,” Durant said during the meeting.

“I know that it helps them out a lot.”

Durant said helping those who are homeless and needy makes her feel good about herself. Knowing her work is appreciated by those she helps makes it all worth it. She began her volunteer work by helping her family at holiday fairs hosted at various Life Care Centers of America facilities in the region.

At these fairs, Durant and her family would use a portion of proceeds to buy make gift baskets for residents at the Maple Arms homeless shelter, which provided them with toiletries and personal care items.

Beth Bracket, Durant’s grandmother, recalled that although her family had been volunteering at these events and providing Maple Arms with gift baskets during the Christmas and Easter seasons, her granddaughter came to her asking if they could do more.

“Alexis said ‘I want to do something to help the homeless,'” Brackett said while recalling a conversation she had with Durant when she was younger, “and I reminded her of what we were doing with these fundraisers and she said, ‘Well, we’re not doing anything now.'”

That was when Durant, Brackett and other family members came up with the idea to host monthly meals at the Maple Arms shelter. Brackett said beyond the meals and toiletries, Durant and her family members have also been able to provide other items for the shelters, including pillows, towels and bus passes, among other things residents need to help them endure their hardships.

Christopher Gartland worked with Durant and her family at Harbor Homes’ Maple Arms Homeless Shelter and the Betty Winberg and Betty Hall Group Homes. He said when Durant and her family are volunteering at the shelters, the residents’ spirits rise.

“I remember her when she was 10 years old coming over,” Gartland said, “The shelter guests loved having them there. They felt like somebody cared, and it’s the same at the group homes after they’re there. It shows that somebody cares.”

Nashua Alderman Tom Lopez, who nominated Durant for for the R-18-093 resolution for recognition, believes it is important to recognize young people for their work and leadership in the community. Lopez said his nomination of Durant was a way to show that even though the city has lost a great leader in the late former board President Brian McCarthy, the city still has future leadership to look forward to in young residents such as Durant.

“Alexis and people like her are a reminder that the link continues beyond us,” Lopez said after the meeting. “There’s more leaders every day around the city – working and building their own love of the city and their own causes and their own passions.”

Other members of the board echoed Lopez, agreeing that it is important for the younger generations to get involved and show the type of initiative Durant has for eight years. Alderwoman June Caron said when people in the community see young residents getting involved with matters such as homelessness, it motivates the rest of the community.

Alderman Michael O’Brien Sr. also agreed. He said people Durant’s age should be challenged to step forward to create a quality city by being an active participant in the community.

“What a breath of fresh air to see a young lady such as Alexis Durant,” O’Brien Sr. said.

Durant will continue her charitable efforts on Saturday as she and her family will host their second annual Holiday Fair at Palm Square. There, they will raffle off 60 gift baskets. Proceeds will go to Harbor Homes Inc.