Community rallies around former Collingdale mayor, community activist after house fire

A community activist and former mayor now needs the community’s help. And, as Collingdale leaders work to get them back on their feet, she is still determined to serve those who need it most.

In Felecia Coffee’s Collingdale backyard, she has a shed dedicated to her monthly food drive and it serves as an emergency food cupboard for the community.

Every Tuesday, she welcomes veterans into her home from 9 to 11 a.m. for a home-cooked breakfast.

It was moments after serving that breakfast, this week, that Coffee says someone yelled to her that the back of her home was on fire. It’s where she lives with her husband, and where she raised her six children.

"I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy," she says. "The flames went everywhere after that, it was just, literally, in five minutes, everything was like gone."

Coffee was on the phone with Mayor of Collingdale, Donna Matteo-Spadea at the time.

"She goes, ‘My house is on fire,’ and I go, ‘Oh my God you call 911,’" she says. "At that time, her husband is on the trash truck here in Collingdale."

Alfred Coffee and his coworkers made their way to Mayor Spadea’s house. She says she ran outside, with her car keys, and told Alfred that there was a fire, and he should take her car home to his wife.

Coffee served as mayor for about two years, and lost by 19 votes to Matteo-Spadea in 2021.

Competitors turned unlikely companions.

"She loves her community and we love her. I mean she’s just a great person," says Matteo-Spadea. "I didn’t know it when I met her, but her and I are like sisters, from another mother and father, but we’re like sisters."

Mayor Spadea worked with others to launch a GoFundMe and plans to hold a fundraiser in the future.

Coffee still plans to open her backyard for the monthly food drive. A neighbor stepped up to host the veteran’s breakfast in the meantime.

"Even though we suffered this, that doesn’t stop hunger," she says. "I’m telling you, my community is amazing, my community is amazing."

Mayor Spadea says people can also drop off monetary or gift card donations to Collingale Borough Hall during regular business hours.