Bea Gaddy, Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame: (1933-2001)
|Known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore and St. Bea, Bea Gaddy rose from a life of poverty to become Baltimore’s leading advocate for the homeless and poor. Beatrice Frankie Fowler was born in Wake Forest, N.C., in 1933. Her family was very poor and suffered under the stresses of the Great Depression. She learned about domestic violence and poverty firsthand during her childhood. She said her father often threw her and her brother out of the house and that her mother lived in constant fear of being beaten.
By the time Ms. Gaddy was in her mid-20s, she was a twice-divorced mother of five, living on and off welfare. She moved to New York and worked as a housekeeper in Brooklyn for $50 a week. In 1964 she came to Baltimore as a single mother with few hopes or dreams.
While in Baltimore, a neighborhood attorney saw her potential and encouraged her to go to college. She enrolled in courses in mental health at Catonsville Community College and went on to earn her bachelor’s in human services from Antioch University in 1977.
Helping others was a mission for Ms. Gaddy, and in the early 1970s she joined the East Baltimore Children’s Fund. Her home became a distribution point for food and clothing for the poor. She used the experience to found a homeless shelter, which eventually became the Bea Gaddy Family Centers Inc.
Her Thanksgiving event, which would become a mainstay in the community and brought greater recognition to Ms. Gaddy’s work to aid the needy, began in 1981. With $290 she won on a 50-cent lottery ticket, Ms. Gaddy bought enough food to feed 39 of her neighbors. She then decided to start a community kitchen for the needy.
Please make sure you tell your kids or grandkids about Ms. Gaddy and her legacy! Also, be sure to donate any canned goods, boxed food items, and clothes to the Bea Gaddy Family Center. Ms. Gaddy loved the community. It’s time we show her how much we love her!
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