After seeing images of children suffering in Haiti, Evelyn Gray didn’t hesitate when asked whether she wanted to donate money to the earthquake-stricken country at the Rite Aid on Broad Street and Oxford Avenue.
But after returning home to Philadelphia after a trip to New York, Gray decided donating money wasn’t enough.
“I’m interested in giving a clothing drive here,” Gray said, turning toward a gated store window where she and her granddaughter run a joint business composed of a billiard room – Gray’s dream – and a boutique.
“I’m going to put some things into play that have been going on in my head since I’ve been home, and I’m going to put the word out for people to come and donate.”
While the natural disaster in Haiti is what set Gray’s plans for a clothing drive in motion, she said she doesn’t “need to see a tragedy to be inspired.”
“When I see people out here every day that are in need, I try to help as many people as I can,” Gray said, adding that while many of the people she once knew in the area have passed on, there is a new generation to assist. “When you see somebody in need, you should go to their rescue. You should always be willing to help because it could be you or your family.”
To bring people from her community together, Gray hosts a Father’s Day dinner and is working to reopen her billiards shop between 17th and Willington streets on Cecil B. Moore Avenue “when the weather breaks,” so Temple students have a “place to go where they don’t feel threatened.” Gray has owned the shop for eight years, though it has been closed for the last year, as her granddaughter recently had a child.
“The guys around here, they know me,” Gray said confidently inside her billiards shop, complete with two pool tables and walls decorated with posters of President Barack Obama, Bob Marley and inspirational quotes, along with a photo montage of neighborhood children. “Even the crazy [guys] say, ‘Oh that’s Miss Evelyn Gray. You can’t mess with her.’”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.