Two SUV loads of pajamas. Sixty pairs of gloves, 20 sweatshirts and t-shirts. $170 in socks and beanies. And just one 75-year old woman making it all happen for the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program known as GRIP.
Gladys Perry is a cancer survivor, a former union organizer, and the kind of neighbor you want to have around. She’s also a volunteer with GRIP member congregation Easter Hill United Methodist Church. Recently, she saw a box near the church entrance asking for a few items GRIP needed like socks, toiletries, and jackets. But she doesn’t just participate. She leads.
“I’m just good at organizing people for a collective, and that’s my background,” she said humbly via a phone call Sunday night. “If there’s something that I can do, I just do it.”
That she did.
She made up her own flier showing the needed items and asking for donations, and passed it around to the 80 homes in her Richmond neighborhood. “I gave them a list of things, and just got so much more than what was on the list.”
YOU CAN HELP: ITEMS NEEDED AT GRIP
Her neighbors started bringing over all kinds of items from jackets to towels, shower gel, laundry detergent, toilet paper, lotion, razors, combs, lip balm, hand sanitizer, feminine products, Ziploc bags, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Another neighbor with the Army Corps of Engineers had boxes of surplus emergency kits in his garage. This began around the holidays, and people were apparently in the giving mood.
“I couldn’t even keep up with it, the response was overwhelming,” Gladys said. She began having to do multiple trips to GRIP to bring over all her neighbors gathered. “One household bought 60 pairs of gloves, 20 sweatshirts and t-shirts. One bought $170 worth of socks and beanies. I cannot name everything purchased, as well as the monetary donations.”
Gladys’ giving spirit didn’t stop there.
While running an errand to pick up a plaque for a church project, she saw a woman in the back moving large boxes and looking a little concerned.
“How’s your day going?” Gladys asked her.
The woman at Alpine Awards Inc. came out front and said she had all these pajama pants printed for a high school, but the color came out too orange for the red mascot, and now she was stuck with all these misprints. “What are you going to do with them?” Gladys asked, and explained what she was doing for GRIP.
“Let’s load up your car,” sales manager Julie Curry said.
It took two full SUV loads to get all 200 pairs of pajamas gathered, and the custom printer was really glad to see them used. When Gladys arrived at GRIP, Executive Director Ralph Payton said there was actually a need for warm pajamas right now, so the timing was perfect.
“Who would have thought? I went there to have some plaques made and I just saw this woman in the back room, looking like there was something that needed asking.
Julie said, “Gladys is like Heaven sent. There’s just something about that lady that I love. You don’t run into people like her that often. I’m just so glad it worked out”
When Gladys picked up the second load, she said, “If you make any more mistakes, you have my number, give me a call!”
Gladys says she’s inspired by GRIP because the organization has the means to get lunches, clothing, and supplies to people not just panhandling on the corner but living in cars, in encampments, and out of the public eye. GRIP finds those in need and distributes equally to those who need it most, meeting them where they are, and of course being a center for support at the shelter on 22nd Street.
Asked what motivates her, Gladys said, “I was just grateful. I am a cancer survivor. I just went through chemo and when you’re doing stuff for other people it takes your mind off yourself and your own issues.”
“People keep saying to me, you should do this again,” Gladys said. “And I said, I will. I most certainly will!”