Life and Religion
|Shades of Gray|
|Herb and Felicia Gray on love, life and giving|
|Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 8:11 am|
He’s a Carolina boy who grew up in Fayetteville, graduated from North Carolina A&T State University, pledged Omega Psi Phi and has a degree in political science.
|Felicia and Herb Gray have become a power couple through their work with Charlotte charities and philanthropy.|
She’s a southern girl from Danville, Va., who pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha and graduated from Johnson C. Smith University with a bachelor degree in mathematics.
Together, they are Herb and Felicia Gray, one of Charlotte’s most popular couples.
Herb is an entrepreneur who owns Life Enhancement Services, a nationally accredited mental health agency headquartered in Charlotte with additional offices in Georgia and Washington, D.C.
“It’s a business that allows me to every single day, even when I’m not physically present with our clients, to help improve somebody’s life, who may otherwise have no support systems out there to help them,” he says.
Herb also serves on a number of boards for various organizations and nonprofits around the city, including the Urban League of Central Carolinas, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, the Harris YMCA, Opera Carolina, Livingstone College, the JCSU Board of visitors and the Chris Canty Foundation.
Felicia works as a systems engineer at Bank of America. She is also a fitness enthusiast who has been teaching aerobics classes at Bally’s and the YMCA for 16 years. Felicia is also very active in her sorority and doing various charitable works around the city.
“Our lifestyle is pretty busy,” says Herb. “Our schedules are full pretty much each and every day of almost every week.”
Seeing the light
Herb and Felicia met in 2000 at the party of a mutual friend. Felicia says Herb caught her eye when he walked in with one of his fraternity brothers.
“I remember thinking that he was a very nice looking man,” she says. “This is going to sound corny, but it was like he had a light that seemed to be following him around.”
They were introduced, but did not hit it off immediately. Upon learning that Felicia taught aerobics classes, Herb made a comment about wanting to take one of her classes. It came across as a pick up line, one that she had heard before.
“I hate when people say that,” she says.
Their paths did not cross again until several months later.
Herb was operating a janitorial company that had the cleaning contract for the former Charlotte Coliseum on Tyvola Road. Felicia’s sorority worked with vendors at the arena, and one day while there on business she ran into him.
Thinking she had been rude, she called up the friend who initially introduced them and asked for his number. She called him up, and they have been talking ever since.
“At the time, I really was not the person that I am perceived to be today,” says Herb. “I wasn’t living the life that I’m living now. I was cleaning buildings. I had a dented-up old van that I would ride around in hustling for my business… She was with me during difficult times.”
Herb says he did not have a lot of money back then, but made a promise that when his fortunes turned around, he would ask for Felicia’s hand in marriage.
The couple wed May 5, 2007 at Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. About 300 guests attended the ceremony.
The power of influence
Herb and Felicia believe strongly in giving back to their community and use their influence to encourage their friends to do the same.
Over the past three years the Grays have raised nearly $250,000 for local charities, programs and agencies including the 100 Black Men’s Movement of Youth mentorship program, the YMCA, the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Johnson C. Smith University, Project LIFT, and UNCF.
The Grays also support various causes in the community from helping needy families and veterans to donating to several local and state political campaigns.
“It started with our parents,” says Felicia. “Both of our parents had us involved in the church doing things since we were little and able to walk… What we are doing now is fourth generation.”
Their most popular charitable event is the annual Gray Classic Golf Tournament, which they have been hosting since 2008.
The mission of the Gray Classic is to help provide an avenue for young students to achieve a higher education, network and engage in mentorship programs.
It began as a gathering of about 12 friends at the Skybrook Golf Course near their home in Huntersville. The event is now held at the Ballantyne Resort and is accompanied by an annual Women’s Empowerment Brunch. Last year, over 200 golfers played in the tournament and more than 100 women attended the brunch.
For the past three years, the Grays have turned their annual holiday party into a community fundraiser. The first year they collected blankets for a local shelter. The second year they raised money for veterans. Last year, their holiday party was held at the home of JCSU President Ronald Carter and raised money for the YMCA.
“We bring people together to eat, drink and fellowship,” says Felicia. “We have been fortunate enough to have met people who rally behind us as we identify unmet needs in the community. We just have the means and the energy to carry out these projects.”
This year, their holiday party is being held at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture on Dec. 15 and will also serve as a fundraiser for the Center.
“It’s funny,” says Felicia. “When the Gantt Center opened three years ago, they had this grand opening gala, and Herb and I were not even invited. We had to call a few people, and that’s how we got in.”
What a difference three years can make.
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