Helping Hands, founded by Gregory Baldwin, 45, provided 500 Thanksgiving turkeys, hams, grocery bags, a hot meal and haircuts for neighborhood children, parents and elders to several Southeast neighborhoods on Nov. 19, just in time for them to look good and feel great for the upcoming holidays.
As a troubled youth, Baldwin, a veteran “street soldier” suffered a staggering number of grave injuries that somehow did not kill him. He captivates audiences by showing where he was shot ten times and stabbed eight, with blades or bullets penetrating his neck, back, throat and even heart and nearly costing him his arm.
Raising his T-shirt to show his battle scars, Baldwin said,’ God is merciful. This is why I do what I do. No one should suffer like this out of getting caught up in the ignorance of the streets.”
Baldwin regularly goes into communities like Barry Farms to share his experience of being saved to deliver an anti-violent message. After realizing he was given a second chance, Baldwin dedicated his life to changing the inner city atmosphere, in which too many Black young men and women find early death when turf and other personal disputes spiral out of control.
The organization holds three yearly Barry Farms events, distributing toys, food, hoodies with anti-violence themes, and other services, especially tied to the holiday seasons.
Helping Hands operates with no funding support, although Baldwin received initial technical assistance from the United Black Front five years ago to set up the group’s non-profit status. In the future, Baldwin hopes to find dedicated funding to bring services to the complex and surrounding neighborhoods monthly.
A close friend and supporter, Jeffrey Sledge reflected on the deeper significance of the Helping Hands Event. “It’s not just about the food. It should be Thanksgiving every day.”
Baldwin keeps a locked coffin on display behind his mother’s house as a forceful reminder to youths of the fate they risk. “They might not just be beaten over that casket, they might get put in that casket. It’s my goal to help prevent it from happening.”
Baldwin’s message was not hype. Since the last turkey giveaway, there were no tragedies. In fact, after the day-to-day mobilization, no new killings in Barry Farms occurred until October, when a new spike began.
“I took it personally. It could have been avoidable. I’m not going to stop my campaign to reach out to the youth and change their mindset,” Baldwin said.
Inspired by his work, others have gravitated to Baldwin and partnered with him. At the event, members of the Straight Riders Motorcycle Club volunteered to prepare the buffet. One Barry Farms resident who shares this aspiration is Tracy Valentine, who supervised the flow of people who wanted haircuts. “Helping Hands has come for three years now, and I’ve always been here to help,” she said enthusiastically.
Yvette Smith, thanked the organization after receiving her share of food items, “I think it’s very nice that he does this. He cares enough to keep the peace.” Smith smiled and added, “His movement shows us how important it is for the community to stick together and be considerate of one another.”
Researcher DeRutter Jones contributed additional material to this story.