SLAUGHTERVILLE — Don’t look for any vehicles parked inside the three-car garage at Jim and Annette Brown’s country home. The stacks of wrapped Christmas gifts pushed the vehicles out long ago.
The Browns, owners of the nearby Maguire Farm Store, will celebrate this Christmas Eve as they have for the past 32 years, busily distributing individual gifts to residents of group homes around the state.
The store regularly distributed groceries to families in need. One year, they couldn’t find one and called a nearby group home at 120th Avenue SE and Etowah Road. They fully expected that most of the residents had been invited home to be with their families. Over time, they’ve learned that’s not the case.
“We were so proud that first year, we gave away 34 gifts,” recalls Jim Brown, 70. “This year we’ll do about 12,000. After we came home that first year, we decided we had just celebrated a real Christmas.”
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Annette Brown, 63, walks through the couple’s barn and calls off the Oklahoma towns and cities where the group homes still exist. Prague, Vinita, Wetumka, Hartshorne, Duncan, Mustang. They’ll serve 45 to 50 homes this year.
Their gifts are often the only personalized gift that arrives.
One year, a woman asked if the Browns could find her brother. They found him in Las Vegas and reconnected the two. Many of the residents move around and families lose track of them.
“It’s really sad. If you didn’t get mail or a phone call and nobody ever came to see you. How sad is that?” says Annette. “They’re kind of put away and forgotten about.”
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The Christmas project shares garage, home and barn space with the burn closet the Browns have operated for 26 years. It began when a fire wiped out nearly a dozen of their neighbors’ homes.