The following article was submitted to Self Magazine’s Women Doing Good competition. We love our Georgene Crowe!
“We are a team of interns, volunteers, and daughters who lead our lives with positive solutions because of Georgene Crowe.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to evolve as an individual, help people survive in a developing country, and watch volunteers and beneficiaries thrive. For 62-year-old Georgene Crowe, the opportunity has been a life changer. Once shy and introverted, she was raising two daughters and trying to save a husband who was an addict. Through volunteering and travel, she found freedom and fulfillment.
Crowe is a hairdresser in Ashland, Oregon. Her clients can tell you countless stories of how she’s “shown up” over the years…whether it’s a new ‘do, counseling from the salon chair, shopping trips for wigs and cancer patients, hospital visits, weddings, graduations, opening her home to people in transition…Crowe is there.
Service at home expanded to thousands of people in Jamaica.
Crowe had never traveled much…until a childhood friend, convinced her to take a trip to Jamaica in 1986. She worried about leaving her two girls, but her friend insisted, “You need to get out and see this world.” Crowe did go to Jamaica; it changed her life and the thousands of Jamaicans who now know her as Mama G.
In 1988, hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica, decimating the island. Crowe and the “mighty circle of ‘aunties'” (as Crowe’s daughters call them) took action. Crowe, Gretchen Lee and Myrtle Franklin quickly started a non-profit called Great Shape! Inc., planned a fundraiser, and sent duffel bags full of needed supplies.
Twenty-two years later, Crowe and Lee (Franklin has passed on) continue to volunteer on the Board and help lead projects year-round–while still holding down their day-jobs. Crowe says, “When you start a project you have to own it, seek funding, work it and build it. Families depend on us.” After the first shipment of duffel bags, the women raised enough money to build a road for a community of potters, added rooms to schools, and sponsored students. Today Great Shape! Inc. leads three humanitarian projects every fall: the world’s largest, international, humanitarian dental project called 1000 Smiles – SuperKids, a literacy project that improves reading, builds computer labs, encourages art, sports and music – and iCare, which provides eye exams and glasses. Imagine never having access to dental care, books or eye care until now. Last fall, Great Shape! Inc. provided services to over 37,000 people. One child praised SuperKids, “I never thought I’d really learn to read. T’anks Mama G and Great Shape!”
Crowe dreams Great Shape! Inc. will someday have a full time, paid staff (currently 1 1/2 paid employees), and is confident they’ll one day build a year-round volunteer center in Jamaica where volunteers can stay and work 24-seven. When Crowe is asked why she serves, she responds, “Why not! It’s my calling, it makes me happy and I look forward to it. My kids grew up in it. Opening up your heart and soul is what it’s all about.”