It was right around Halloween that Borchert Field resident Darius Williams, 21, first hit on the idea of distributing Christmas gifts to neighborhood children and adults. Williams had been talking with his neighbor and mentor Andre Lee Ellis about building community and engaging neighborhood youth in positive activities.
After deciding to hand out Halloween candy to the children on 9th and 10th streets, Williams began to think about how to continue promoting community spirit during the coming Christmas season. With Ellis’ help, he developed a plan for the “12 Days of Christmas.”
The project took off when a local television station got wind of it and came to interview Ellis and Williams early in December. After that gift donations poured in.
Beginning 12 days before Christmas, Ellis’s front porch became the center of the project as Ellis, Williams and friends distributed toys and warm clothing wrapped in Christmas paper to all who stopped by between 4 and 6 p.m. each evening.
In addition to the gifts, Williams and Ellis created a festive space in the community garden next to Ellis’ house. They decorated an evergreen tree and pulled wooden benches, which are normally scattered throughout the lot, into a circle around a fire pit. Ellis put out a thermos of hot chocolate and the makings of s’mores for neighbors congregating around the fire.
“I was hoping it would be something that would bring people together and make a stronger community,” Williams said.