Harold Gray, 55, helped D.C.’s ‘invisible people’

The writer, a Hatchet reporter, knew the Rev. Gray personally and often joined him and other GW students to feed the homeless on Monday nights.

The Rev. Harold Gray, 55, a mentor and leader to many GW students who volunteered to feed the homeless, passed away from a heart attack over winter break.

His organization of students from both Howard and George Washington universities, the Bethlehem Rebounders, distributed clothing and about 70 bags filled with hot dogs, fruit, dessert and bottled water to the homeless on Monday nights at Union Station and other locations around D.C.

The Howard faculty member and Philadelphia native warmed the lives of those he called the “invisible people” – those relegated to sleeping on park benches, under statues, in doorways and train stations.

“He helped me when I needed help,” said Paul Soprano, a formerly homeless man who attributes his rehabilitation to Gray. “Now I have to follow his legacy and try to help those who need it.”

Gray also organized the Rebounders’ Drive-by Cookout, which took place the Sunday before Labor Day.

The Rebounders fed close to 500 people at Union Station and Franklin Square during the last Cookout. They gave out fried chicken, red beans and rice, mashed potatoes, and large amounts of clothing to anyone who asked. The event also featured free HIV/AIDS testing and volunteers distributed other health and hygiene supplies to promote better standards of living.

Gray asked his volunteers to remember that those being fed were human. He understood that these people were not merely nameless, faceless castaways. They were Dorothy from the Caribbean, Mac and the boys by Penn Quarter, Bob from Washington Circle and Harold, who wanted two hot dogs instead of chips. He believed that no stomach should go hungry.

Dorothy, a recipient of food each Monday night at Union Station, described his passing as devastating.

“The pastor was so committed to us. It was nice just to talk with him and the volunteers. The food was just an extra,” she said.

At the end of each outing, Gray asked volunteers to reflect on what they had seen. He let those who witnessed people huddled under blankets tell of their impressions and experiences. The faces we saw and the conversations we had brought the tragedy of poverty to the forefront of my mind. But students working to make a difference in the lives of strangers instilled in me an invaluable optimism that this problem could be eradicated. We were living Mahatma Gandhi’s message of being the change we want in the world.

“Rev. Gray brought a lot of different kinds of people together through service,” said Collin Stevens, a senior and a volunteer. “What he lived his life for and his actions, his legacy will live on through people.”

Several students who worked with the Rebounders said they will continue to assist the homeless because Gray helped them discover not only the homeless situation in D.C., but also themselves.

Gray’s smile was contagious and his passion was infectious. I find it easier to try to make a difference knowing how much of an impact one person can make with a strong enough desire for humanity. I will never forget his laugh, but most importantly I will never forget his life. He did not preach love, he exuded it. His legacy will be forever ingrained in my intentions and aspirations.

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