Hand It On: Gerry Stark Compassion in Action

Hand It On: Gerry Stark Compassion in Action

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's Women's Week in Baton Rouge! The Women's Council of Greater Baton Rouge kicked off this 14th annual celebration Friday, September 25, 2015.

Women's Week will continue through October 4, 2015 supporting this year's theme is "Women Leading the Way."

In conjunction with Women's Week, various organizations and businesses are offering the women of Greater Baton Rouge a wealth of activities, all of which aim to support, pamper, inform, and connect the women in our community.

How fitting our Hand It On segment for Wednesday, September 30, 2015, right in the middle of Women's Week, is spotlighting a very active, giving woman in our community.

Gerry Stark created a group called "Compassion in Action" about three and a half years ago. They meet at The Red Shoes women's center on Government Street every Wednesday morning at 10:30 to read inspirational literature, books, etc. that have underlying themes of 'compassion'.

One of their charter members is Susan Lambert. Susan nominated Gerry Stark for Hand It On and wanted us to meet this incredible woman. Susan tells of how Gerry has a soft spot in her heart for the homeless in our community. And this passion led Gerry to learn to crochet padded mats for the homeless out of plastic grocery bags! Gerry has become so accomplished in this endeavor she now teaches her skill several times a month at area libraries.

But her compassion for the homeless doesn't stop there. Gerry organized a Christmas party at both St. Vincent de Paul men's shelters. For the parties, Gerry collects toiletries, socks, warm hats, puzzle books, and more and fills backpacks for each man with these items. Additionally, Gerry unselfishly pays for all of these items, including the backpacks, with her own money.

Needless to say, Susan Lambert's request to place Gerry in the WAFB Hand It On spotlight this week was a 'no brainer'.

So at Susan's invitation, we crashed a recent Wednesday weekly meeting of the Compassion in Action group. They were reading the book Cotton Patch Rebel by local author Ann Trousdale. It's the story of Clarence Jordan who, among other things, was the original inspiration for what has become known as Habitat for Humanity.

Photographer Brandon Shackelford and I slipped in the back of the room and patiently waited for Susan Lambert to expose our purpose.

"We're reading about Clarence," Susan said, addressing the group. "But as I said, in our own midst we have a modern day profit. So if Gerry Stark would bring her dynamo body over here," Susan instructed.

Once standing in the middle of the crowded room at The Red Shoes, Susan presented Gerry with our Hand It On gift.

"So because we love you so much, we have a special gift for you Gerry," Susan began. "If you're familiar with the Hand It On project that Channel 9 does, we're giving you $300 to use where you see fit. And I know what you're gonna do with it – backpacks for the Christmas party."

Gerry was dumbfounded. She had no idea WAFB was there for Hand It On. She just thought we were there doing a story on The Red Shoes and Women's Week.

Sitting quietly in the back of the room all this time was The Red Shoes founder, Ms. Roberta Guillory. Roberta was so moved by our Hand It On gesture, and by all the wonderful things Gerry does, Roberta matched our Hand It On gift!

"You gave her $300?" Roberta asked me in a tone that sounded more like a statement than a question. "I'm gonna give her $300 from The Red Shoes," she concluded.

"I cannot believe y'all are gonna make me cry like this," Gerry said through tears, holding a dozen beautiful, yellow roses – a gift from a club member.

Susan Lambert, in an effort to help Gerry regain composure, said jokingly, "I can't believe we kept it a secret!" The room erupted in laughter, applause, and hugs.

Truly Women Leading the Way!
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On program, send an e-mail to HandItOn@WAFB.com. Make sure to include your contact information, including phone number.

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