Growing up in a farmer’s tenant house in rural Oregon near Monroe, John Gray knows the importance of having the help of a caring community and a decent home. His widowed mother was a teacher in a one-room school, worked hard to pay $2.50 each month in rent, and found a way to meet the needs of her three growing boys.
“We were happy, dry and never hungry,” said Gray. “People respected my mother and it was always a game of my brothers and me to guess which family would ask us to dinner after church.”
Gray believes that a child is shaped by his or her environment. His community valued hard work, education and helping neighbors.
Motivated by these values and hearing about Habitat’s opportunity to purchase land at dramatically low prices, Gray committed $1 million to launch the A World of Hope: It Starts at Home fundraising campaign.
“This is a testament to his dedication to stabilize families and neighborhoods in the Portland metro area,” said Steve Messinetti, President and CEO. “His leadership gift allowed Habitat to act quickly on opportunities to buy or tie up land for 95 homes.”
Pleased by the land opportunities he saw here with the Portland/Metro East affiliate, Gray decided to go even further, giving an additional $1 million gift to help other Habitat affiliates in Oregon act on great land deals. The John Gray Land Opportunity Fund is set up at the Oregon Community Foundation for this purpose and 28 Habitat affiliates throughout the state are in the process of identifying land to purchase with these funds.
“Mr. Gray really does exemplify everything that Habitat stands for,” said Messinetti. “His gift will literally change the trajectory of hundreds of children’s lives and increase the capacity of Habitat affiliates throughout our entire state.”
Mr. Gray is known for his development of large projects like Sunriver Resort, Salishan Spa and Golf Resort and the John’s Landing neighborhood in Portland. Now in his nineties, Gray’s philanthropic efforts are a career in itself and have touched the lives of many Oregonians. He has had significant impact on environmental organizations, early childhood and higher education institutions, has aided our hospitals and cultural scene and helped feed and clothe the less fortunate. Now, he’s helping build homes.
“Do what you can. If you can’t give money, give time or give your expertise,” said Gray. “I think there is something everyone can contribute.”