City honors Gaddy's legacy with goods drive today

Food, clothing can be left at locations until 6 p.m.

October 03, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's political leaders are keeping the legacy of Bea Gaddy alive by calling for a citywide drive to collect food and winter clothing today, the one-year anniversary of the former councilwoman's death.

City Council President Sheila Dixon said she started thinking about ways to commemorate her colleague not long after Gaddy's funeral was held last year at New Shiloh Baptist Church. The idea of setting aside a day for donations seemed natural and was not hard to sell to fellow legislators or those in the private sector, she said.

"People really realized the benefits and the sacrifices that she made helping others," said Dixon. "Everybody just wanted to help."

Drop-off centers for Bea Gaddy Day will be located throughout the city at Giant and Safeway supermarkets, recreation centers, police and fire stations and other locations. They will be receiving donations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Prostate cancer screenings will be available at the branch office of the NAACP, 8 W. 26th St., and at The Door, 219 N. Chester St. UniversityCare of Maryland will offer free mammograms to those without insurance.

Gaddy, who spent the last 20 years of her life as a selfless advocate of the region's poor and was once known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore, died of breast cancer at age 68.

She had firsthand knowledge of the poverty and despair that brought men, women and children to her North Collington Avenue home in search of assistance. Her Thanksgiving dinners, at which thousands were fed, attracted national attention. They were large-scale public affairs. She held the first one in 1981, using $290 she had won on a 50-cent lottery ticket to feed 39 people.

After she died, people rushed to continue the programs she had established. Nearly 1,000 volunteers showed up at Dunbar Middle School last Thanksgiving to help feed 17,500 people who sought a meal.

Gaddy was elected to the City Council in 1999. Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who represented the city's 2nd District with her, said Gaddy's work was "too important" not to continue.

"Miss Gaddy was a one-woman crusader and really got out there and pushed for those who were less fortunate," he said.

Food and clothing collected as part of Bea Gaddy Day will be distributed to the city's homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other social service agencies. The all-day event will end with a rally in front of City Hall, beginning at 6 p.m.

Dixon said she hopes the collection drive will become an annual event and suggested that next year, perhaps donations could be collected at Oriole Park and Ravens Stadium.

For information, call Dixon's office at 410-396-4804 or the Bea Gaddy Cancer Prevention Center at 410-522-0652.

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