ELIZABETHTOWN — There were handshakes, hugs, tears and countless thanks throughout the day Friday at the Bladen Journal office, as more than 200 items like blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, towels, sheets and more were distributed to the area’s homeless and needy.
The day was the culmination of the third annual “Roger’s Wish” project by the newspaper staff.
“We had numerous moments of awe and appreciation for a community that just kept giving during the month of October, when these items were collected,” said W. Curt Vincent, GM/editor of the Bladen Journal. “But on Friday … that’s when the true reward for us all came together.”
“Roger’s Wish” was the idea of Roger Grunder, a man who was homeless himself but wanted to do something for those in need.
“Roger was an intelligent, thoughtful man who was blessed with a servant’s heart,” Vincent said. “And I was fortunate enough to have him as a friend.”
Grunder was also well known throughout the downtown Elizabethtown area, and spent numerous hours volunteering at the Bladen Crisis Center Thrift Store. He approached Vincent in the summer of 2013 with the idea for a blanket and sleeping bag drive to benefit the area’s needy, and the two of them put together that first effort that got underway in August 2013.
“Sadly, within 48 hours of giving his heart to the Lord, Roger was killed in a single-car accident,” Vincent said. “But we wanted to keep his wish alive, so the ‘Roger’s Wish’ project was born.”
That first year, nearly 125 items were collected, followed by more than 150 the second year.
This year, “Roger’s Wish” received widespread publicity from Carolina Country magazine in a story by Jeffrey Bryan of White Oak, along with Wilmington television outlets WWAY through the reporting of Taylor Yakowenko and WECT through the reporting of Bob Townsend all of which contributed to the record-breaking number of items donated.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to Jeffrey, a friend of Roger’s who was responsible for igniting the interest in the project by those other media outlets,” Vincent said. “And we’re already looking forward to making an even bigger dent in the need next year.”
The effort attracted contributions from numerous areas of the county — including church groups, individuals and even Grunder’s father, sister and nephew.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.