Marvin Grace/A Hero To North Gulfport
This week we introduce you to a man who started youth sporting leagues and mentored hundreds of kids in his neighborhood to keep them off the streets.
He also started the first volunteer fire department in North Gulfport and was a reserve police officer there as well. The father of 8 then adopted 4 children in need of a loving home.
Now the man who cared so much for his community, is battling a life threatening illness and his daughter Tracy wanted everyone to know what her Dad has meant to so many.
So we honor Marvin Grace of Gulfport as a South Mississippi Hero.
the reason for me calling about my dad is because to me my father is a real life hero
Marvin Grace is well known in his community for many reasons. In 1974, he and close friend Oliver West started the first fire department in North Gulfport, made up solely of volunteers. Marvin says, "We been together a long time, opened up the fire department in gulfport and everything."
They also built the area's fire station and ran it for 12 years, until the city took over fire protection there. He also helped establish early education programs like "Head Start" in his community, determined to steer children in the right direction. He was also a big part of Judge Whitfield's "Scared Straight" program, he says, "I took kids on the bus down there to the prison to try to implant something in their minds so they wouldn't go out and do bad."
And through church league athletics, he kept countless kids off the streets. Pastor Charles Strickland says the "Greater Gulf Coast Sports Association" continues today.
Pastor Charles Strickland says, "From the very first day I met him it was just the kids, community that's what it's all about with him."
As a volunteer coach, Marvin Grace also used his love of the game to guide his own 12 children and 25 grandchildren. Grandson Thomas Fairley now plays professional basketball in Germany.
Thomas Fairley, "He stayed on me, me and my brother, trying to get me into basketball got me into the church league I began to develop my skills and found the love for the game. He taught me discipline in basketball and pretty much life and everything else."
But even those 'not' related to Mr. Grace, proudly call him grandfather, like neighbor Carlos Anderson.
Carlos Anderson, "I was one of the ones that strayed away and he brung me back I done been through a lot."
Carlos is just one of the many young lives turned around by one caring man who worked hard to keep them all busy and out of trouble.
Marvin Grace, "They played ball, we kept them off the streets they went out and they did wonderful things and they talk to other kids to keep them out of trouble I think we were very successful, very successful."
Pastor Strickland agrees and just wishes there were more men in North Gulfport, like Marvin Grace "I believe if we had about 10 or 15 more people like him in the community, boy it would be a real great place".
There is a fund for Mr. Grace's medical bills... if you'd like to reach his family... you can call 228-383-2015.