ELIZABETHTOWN — When Roger Grunder was alive, he would often talk about how much he wanted to help others. His servant’s heart gave him a constant urging to make the lives of those less fortunate better — and his actions far outweighed his words in that respect.
He saw firsthand others who slept with whatever they could find to cover themselves — newspapers, cardboard, leaves, anything at all. He’s heard the stories about families whose children sleep on a concrete floor with very little between them and the cold floor, much less to cover themselves with. Quite literally, all of those things broke Grunder’s heart.
What makes Grunder’s story even more incredible is that he, himself, was homeless.
But because of Grunder, there is hope.
On Thursday, the Bladen Journal will begin it’s third annual “Roger’s Wish” effort to collect new or gently used blankets and sleeping bags — not only for the area’s homeless, but for the needy families of Bladen County.
The idea originated with Grunder back in the summer of 2013. After months of regular visits with the staff of the Bladen Journal during his daily walks through downtown Elizabethtown, Grunder chose a time during a pizza lunch with the staff to pitch his idea for a county-wide blanket and sleeping bag collection.
After getting a thumbs up from the newspaper staff to act as a partner in the effort, Grunder, who had also spent time volunteering at the Bladen County Crisis Thrift Store, took his eternal life in a new direction by getting saved and baptized at Open Door Ministries.
Sadly, less than two days later — just days after beginning a blanket and sleeping bag collection — Grunder was killed in a one-car accident.
But Grunder’s vision for an annual collection of blankets and sleeping bags lives on. In the fall of 2013, the Bladen Journal collected about 115 items and distributed them during a giveaway in early November. In 2014, that number grew to about 175 items and even more individuals and families were assisted.
This year, the Bladen Journal staff is hoping to eclipse the 200 mark and expand the number of folks the effort can help.
Over the first two years, items have been donated by a wide variety of sources — from individuals to businesses to churches to youth groups to school groups and others. Blankets have been received from as far away as Florida and New York.
The “Roger’s Wish” collection drive will be held Oct. 1 through Oct. 30 this year, though donations will be accepted on Monday, Nov. 2, if arrangements are made ahead of time by calling the Bladen Journal at 910-862-4163.
Donations can be dropped off at the Bladen Journal office in downtown Elizabethtown between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Anyone with questions or needing directions can call the Bladen Journal staff at 910-862-4163.
W. Curt Vincent is the GM/editor for the Bladen Journal.