The first African American assigned to command a reconnaissance company in the U.S. Marine Corps, Stanley Gray of Tampa, Fla., is dedicated to his nation and community, and is sharing hope through his volunteerism, giving a hand up to individuals looking for a brighter future.
Committed in his desire to help others and strengthen community, Stanley has given back in many ways, most recently, establishing a new approved National Urban League affiliate chapter in Hillsborough County (ULHC). Stanley’s support has reinvigorated direct services that impact and improve lives, promoting economic equity for African Americans and minorities after the community lost its chapter nearly two decades ago. Persisting through delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanley rallied others to the cause with a forward-looking vision, making a positive impact on his community through volunteerism.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Volunteerism is personal to me. I was adopted by a black family when I was five years old, and my whole world changed. I am very, very appreciative of my father for what he did for me. He’s a better man in many ways than I’ll ever be. Throughout my life people have helped me, and without that help, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.
You’re recognized for your collaborative volunteerism. What does that mean to you?
I appreciate the recognition but it’s not something I look for. When I was in the Marine Corps, people would ask what they were most proud of. I’m most proud of every Marine I ever had that received his diploma. Every one that wanted to go to college, we found them money. Those are the things I’m proud of.
Describe your volunteerism with ULHC.
I am getting things off the ground and then will pass on leadership of the affiliate chapter. By leveraging my personal relationships to fundraise, we established programs in addition to developing collaborative relationships with other organizations. We now have a board of directors and more than 220 members.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
A young man came to our office, he is a graduate of Morehouse College and has a masters degree from Florida Institute of Technology. He’d not been able to find employment, and then adding in COVID, it put him in a real place of flux. We sat down, went over his resume, did interview prep, worked on his presence, and he was able to get job making a $75,000 salary just one year out of school. That, to me, is what we’re supposed to be about. Volunteering is emotionally paying out rent. We’re supposed to help people live to their potential, not to sustain them where they’re at.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I do believe in the golden rule and I also believe that you will be rewarded at least two-fold when you give with no expectation to get. The only way we’re going to get better as a nation is when people start giving back to move us collectively forward.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
Being a part of people meeting their objective is most rewarding. We’ve a part of turning their lives around. I’ve been doing this for probably 30 years, but you’re not just making a difference in one person’s life, that change affects other lives and families.
How have you continued to volunteer throughout the pandemic?
We had to find different ways to get people involved while taking precautions. We just launched our Young Professionals program for Urban League. Everyone talks about why we have so much unemployment, and why we can’t find people to work. We have a level of apathy (in the country) and people have given up hope. We’re focusing on young professionals to get involved and help provide avenues of hope to others.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Know what your talents are and then share them with somebody. There’s no expectation you’ll be paid back, but do so in a very honest and forthright manner so people understand you have their betterment at heart.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
How can readers help?
Please visit the Urban League affiliate chapter in Hillsborough County website for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Stanley Gray? Find local volunteer opportunities.