A Ventnor, N.J., woman has raised money to rebuild a playground and even traveled to Uganda to offer her volunteer service.
At 71, Marsha Galespie still tackles obstacle courses. Throw a roadblock in her way and she’s there with hammer and tongs — real or metaphorical — to set the path straight.
Sometimes those paths lead to foreign challenges.
Last year the former Philadelphian and current Ventnor, N.J., resident traveled to Uganda for several weeks, joining volunteers from Real Partners Uganda, the brainchild of Dr. Joseph G. and Elaine Griswold of nearby Brigantine, N.J.
She found out about the Griswolds’ project of helping children in Uganda one Sunday when she took two of her home care clients to church. At that service, she learned that the Community Presbyterian Church was a co-sponsor of the Real Partners Uganda program.
“I had always wanted to join the Peace Corps,” Galespie says. So she asked church members “if you had to be Presbyterian to join — I had been turned down on other projects at some churches because I was Jewish and not Christian.”
Come join the challenge, she was told.
“It was mind-boggling,” she says of her three-week tour of Uganda.
She was given the job of assisting teachers in the baby class held at the Good Shepherd Child Care Centre in the village of Lukaya.
She stayed involved even after returning home by sending monthly support payments to the Uganda agency to sponsor a child there.
It was not the first time Galespie had done good.
“In 2007, my grandchild and I went to what turned out to be a crummy playground in Ventnor. I saw it and said, ‘Yuk!’ ”
Galespie took it upon herself to "start pounding the Boardwalk and the beaches to raise money” to fix up the playground.
A year later, Gillespie and a crew of 12 had raised $450,000 through her nonprofit C-SURE Children’s Park Inc. and constructed an engaging new site.
Such experiences — rebuilding a playground that had been sliding downhill; helping youngsters find a cause to smile again in impoverished Uganda; and her current efforts on behalf of Arc, which includes fundraising for its Sept. 20 golf tournament in Harbor Pines, N.J., to aid developmentally and mentally challenged children — have not had so much an impact on her, she claims, as they have on her elementary school-age grandchildren, whom she encourages to volunteer.
Seeding others’ interest in the need for tikkun olam is rooted in her own mitzvah-making mom’s legacy, she says of the late Charlotte Goldstein Gross, who had been active on behalf of the Philadelphia Geriatric Center; and late grandmom, Ida Goldstein, “who was honored for all her volunteer work by many Philadelphia Jewish groups.”
The tradition has taken root with Galespie. The Ventnor resident says she hopes to return to Uganda one day, and she knows she will have at the very least one welcoming Ugandan all set to offer a hug when she does.