Updated: May 18
Women’s History Month Close Out Salute to Women Philanthropists – Stella Gasby
The definition of Philanthropy is the love of humankind. I saw this played out growing up in the Northend and Westside neighborhoods of Detroit, Michigan. My role model was a community activist and neighborhood philanthropist, Stella Gasby. She migrated from Natchez, Mississippi , along with her husband Rev. Wesley Gasby, Jr. to Detroit with stops in New Orleans and St. Louis. Her giving spirit was felt everywhere she went. In Detroit she led and organized fundraising campaigns for various causes including her church, Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Her mentor and pastor was Benjamin L. Hooks (who later became the national president of the NAACP). Stella’s “Calendar Teas”-- where women would decorate tables for the months of the year -- were beautiful and successful events held at the local YWCA -- raised thousands of dollars for missions work to benefit inner city communities and people throughout Africa.
She was a “neighbor’s neighbor”. I watched her so many times as she rolled out dough from scratch and made the best peach cobbler on earth, only to give it to a family in the neighborhood who lost a loved one, or to increase attendance at the block club meetings (it worked!). Stella’s home was also the epicenter for anyone and everyone to get a good home cooked meal. She epitomized philanthropy through her thoughts and actions. When she passed away in 1982, over 1,000 people came to the family hour and funeral—from a future mayor of Detroit, to the postman who delivered her mail. Her example is the reason for my journey of teaching and consulting in the philanthropic sector. By the way, if you haven’t guessed, the neighborhood philanthropist I thought so highly of was my Mom. You probably have a story about someone who inspired you to give back. Please share it with me.
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