Gilda's article

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'I don't want my kids to be a statistic'

'Brook mom helps young gridders

By GLORIA CAMPISI

campisg@phillynews.com

GILDA LEE has battled drug dealers who vandalized her car, threatened to kill her and urinated on her apartment door.
"Guys approached my youngest son in the hallway," Lee said. "I guess they thought if they scared him, it would get to me.
"They broke my windows. I had my apartment broken into."
But Lee isn't daunted because she knows how important it is to keep kids off drugs.
"I don't want my kids to be a statistic," says Lee, 32.
That's why she finds time in her busy life running her apartment building at 63rd Street and Lebanon Avenue, raising two boys and a foster child, and attending college, to fight for her neighborhood's fledgling Overbrook Monarchs football team.
The Monarchs were so successful last year, their first, when 138 boys between 6 and 15 signed up to play on five teams, that they are expanding to seven teams this year. The teams even have cheerleaders.
While volunteers, including firefighters, police officers, a grief counselor and city employees coached the teams, Lee was out raising money to outfit them, buy trophies and hire buses to take them to games.
Volunteers reached into their own pockets last year, but Monarch organizers will need more money and more help this year, Lee said.
"You want to get the kids out from standing in front of your store, standing around doing nothing," Lee says.
"You want to get the kids off the street. You don't want them out there selling drugs, shooting each other," Lee says.
Lee, along with Monarch's president Robert Williams, also is overseeing efforts to clean up the Granahan Recreation Center at 66th and Callowhill streets. The Monarchs, members of the Pop Warner Football Conference, practice there.
Last year, Lee and other board members, including fellow team mom Theresa Mitchell, dug into their own pockets to keep the kids running. "This year we need the community to take time out to help us also," Lee said.
"If you can't sponsor us, can you come out and help clean up the field."
The rec center is a wreck and the field is littered with big holes, Lee said.
"The fences need to be fixed. We got people coming in and damaging the field. We need plumbing and electrical work done."
Lee said there's only one working toilet in the building.
Mitchell has high praise for Lee's determination and work ethic.
"She's one of the most dedicated people I've ever met," said Mitchell, who got to know Lee because their sons played football together.
"She's the type of person that if she sees something that needs to be done, she gets up and does it. She doesn't wait for anybody else to do it.
"She just took in a little boy who lost his mother a couple of months ago. There's not a whole lot of single mothers that would be willing to take on the responsibility of an extra child."
Lee also is studying real estate and would like to use that knowledge to provide housing for seniors and boys in need.
The tireless mom is backed up in her anti-drug efforts by C.B. Kimmins and Kevin Horne, of Mantua Against Drugs, who came into her apartment building a year ago at the request of a police official.
"The building was overrun by drug dealers," Kimmins said. "It was like a movie, like 'New Jack City,' where drug dealers took over an entire apartment complex," Kimmins said.
"We met Gilda as the manager," Kimmins said. "She was trying to protect her own children and the other children in the building from guns and drugs."
Horne remains in Lee's building, patrolling fire towers and hallways. It took a few weeks to drive out the dealers hanging around the lobby. Once in a while "new ones that got out of jail, they'll come back."
A new alarm system was put on the doors to "keep the drug folks out," Lee said.
Horne called Lee a "committed person. She's serious about cleaning up drugs," he said.
"She stood in the lobby when we first came and helped us to identify the apartments that had drug problems." Horne said. "She took a stand with us."
Social worker Danielle Ebo said that when she moved into the apartment building, "drugs were bad. They were doing whatever they wanted to do. They'd be in the lobbies. The old people were afraid to come out of their apartments." But Lee changed all that.
"You can't outdo Gilda," Ebo said. "She gets things done."