Advocacy Honoree, 2017
Q: You – Tell us about your background.
A: I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. I grew up in the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects, “a project that was plagued with drugs, crime and much more.” I graduated as valedictorian of my high school class and received a full scholarship to and graduated from Boston University. Being the oldest of 6 children, (4 sisters and 1 brother) I was a role model for my siblings. My parents were married for 40 years until my mother passed at age 59 due to breast cancer. My mother’s death was the biggest tragedy I have encountered in my life. My work with seniors is how I continue to honor my mother.
Several people have been influencers in my life. First, my parents taught me to walk in love and have faith in God. Their beliefs helped shape my character. As a child, my parents made sure the family had what they needed, not always what they wanted.
My second influencer was my high school counselor, Mr. Richardson, who influenced me to attend Boston University. He stated that choosing and attending the right college or university and doing well would open many doors. Third, my uncle, the late Dick Gregory, also had a big influence on my life. He spoke at my high school graduation and provided support and guidance throughout my life – high school, college and up until his passing.
Q: Wisdom – Lessons learned during your journey?
A: Be authentic (Be your best self). Focus on the now so you set yourself up for success later. Work hard, do well in school. Decisions you make now will impact you for the rest of your life. Always give your best effort. When completing a project, ask the question, “Is this my best effort?” If not, put in more time or ask for help to make it better. Be grateful. Remember the source of your blessings. Seek out a mentor. It will make traveling the journey easier. In a world where you can be whatever you want to be, Be Kind.
Q: Calling – Why do you do what you do?
A: Throughout my life, my biggest joy came from helping others. I tutored students in math when I was in the 8th grade. But my real passion for wanting to work with seniors began when I was 8 years old. I recall the hot July afternoon when I was playing outside and noticed my 85-year-old neighbor, Ms. Fannie, struggling with groceries. When none of my playmates so much as flinched, I leapt to Ms. Fannie’s assistance, helping her carry her shopping bags up eight flights of stairs to her apartment. The elevator was broken. In that moment I realized how marginalized seniors felt and vowed to continue helping them.
Decades later, in 2009, I made good on my promise. After retiring from a career as a 30-year successful sales and marketing executive, I established Diana Gregory Outreach Services, a nonprofit that helps seniors eat healthy with cooking classes and a mobile farmers market, Gregory’s Fresh Market, which brings produce directly to residents at senior-living facilities. Today, the organization delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 8,000 seniors and veterans each year.
Q: Advice – What would you tell your 10-year-old self?
A: Be confident. Develop a tough skin so your feelings are not easily hurt. Do not take things personally. Learn how to play an instrument. It strengthens your memory power.
Do not worry as much. Everything will work out. Aim for the stars and if you fail, you can still land on the moon. (Set high goals).