City Council's Gaddy in coma at Hopkins

Advocate for homeless was being treated for recurrence of cancer

October 03, 2001|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Councilwoman Bea Gaddy, an East Baltimore advocate for the homeless, was in a coma yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she is being treated for a recurrence of breast cancer.

"This morning, she kind of took a turn for the worse," family spokesman Stanley Scipio said yesterday during a news conference outside Gaddy's home on North Collington Avenue. "From the information from doctors, it's maybe hours or days."

Gaddy, 68, has been fighting cancer for several years. The disease had been in remission until several months ago, Scipio said.

She went into the hospital about 10 days ago and had been doing well, taking her last cancer treatment Thursday, he said. Her family had considered moving her out of the hospital before her condition worsened yesterday.

Family members said one of the main things the public could do for Gaddy is to step forward with donations and help make this year's Thanksgiving give-away a success. Gaddy has been feeding the poor and homeless at her annual holiday event for nearly 20 years.

According to those who have visited Gaddy during the past few days, the councilwoman had been talkative and was aware of visitors.

"She was feisty, giving instructions for the Thanksgiving dinner," said Scipio, adding that there is a need this year for turkeys to fill Gaddy's pantry.

Turkey Hill farms has provided the birds in recent years, but the company has since been bought by another firm. That move has put Turkey Hill's commitments in jeopardy, he said.

The dinners have been Gaddy's signature event. She held the first one in 1981, feeding 39 people with $290 she won from a 50-cent lottery ticket. From there, the events grew in size and fame. Each year, more people have shown up to pick up a hot meal for themselves or their families.

On Christmas Eve 1988, more than 3,000 people lined up outside her home to receive food and presents that had been donated.

In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush named Gaddy one of his "Thousand Points of Light." A year later, she and about 2,000 volunteers helped feed more than 20,000 people. Donations poured in from civic groups, the public and philanthropic organizations.

The numbers declined in recent years after Gaddy, a Democrat, was elected in 1999 to the City Council, representing East Baltimore's 2nd District.

Yet, the event remains an integral part of neighborhood life. Yesterday, bread and rolls sat on a table outside Gaddy's home, there for the taking.

"We have to make sure that Thanksgiving, we have to make sure that Christmas, her repertoire, continues," said Sandra Briggs, one of her daughters."`Just get it running.' That's what she said," Briggs said.

Anyone interested in making a donation to Gaddy's holiday effort should call 410-563-2749.

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