I first saw Roger Grunder reading a book on a park bench one sunny afternoon in 2011. For the last three years of his young life, he lived around Elizabethtown as a homeless person. Despite his carefree lifestyle, Roger had a heart of gold and was always involved in helping others.
In early August 2013, Roger approached the staff of the local newspaper office, where he was friends with the editor. He had an idea for a project to collect blankets for the homeless and needy around the area. The editor agreed to assist Roger with his project before the onset of winter.
On Aug. 28, Roger accepted Jesus into his live while attending evening services at a local church. After being baptized the following day, church members and friends presented him with a car. Early the following morning, Aug. 30, the sun rose without Roger. He had been killed when his car left the road and overturned.
While still grieving the loss of their friend, the Bladen Journal staff decided his project should go forward. They decided to name the event “Roger’s Wish” in his memory. During the month of October, more than 100 donations poured into the newspaper office, with many of the donors eager to remember Roger. The staff vowed to carry the project each year due to its huge success. The following October 2014 saw the amount of donations nearly double.
Besides having a kind heart, Roger was also know for his sense of humor. While volunteering at the Bladen Crisis Center Thrift Store, he would often wear a Sponge Bob apron over his clothes as a humorous gesture to the costumers.
More than two years after his death, that apron still hangs from a small rack near the back of the thrift store. Exactly where Roger left it on his last day there.
Editor’s note: The third annual Roger’s Wish event will take place starting in October when blankets and sleeping bags will be collected at the Bladen Journal office throughout the month. As with the first two, the items will then be given out to the county’s homeless and needy in early November.