The death of Phillip L. Gibson on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Monrovia came as a great shock because it was never reported he had a medical condition. He was in his early forties and agile.
In fact, it is rare for healthy people to just fall down and die, except for a medical condition that an individual had been battling, unbeknown to others.
I got to know Gibson when I walked down Gurley Street at least two years ago on a Saturday afternoon and saw a large group of kids in a queue, waiting to receive a decent meal.
Upon my inquiry, Gibson told me that he had been providing free meals to nearly 100 children every Saturday. He said he started the program during the heat of the Ebola scourge in 2014 that killed thousands of Liberians.
He said he realized that kids in central Monrovia were moving about without no one to provide for them and they were hungry too.
Rushing into his coffers, Gibson said he took all his US$150 and he immediately called several neighbors and put them to work.
“In about two hours the food was ready to feed the kids and the problem we had was how to gather them to come to enjoy the food,” he said.
But within thirty minutes, the kids had understood what was going on and had rushed to their homes to bring their bowls for the food. Each would also receive a bag of mineral water.
Since then, Gibson continued and his support to the kids was featured in the Daily Observer, as his humanitarian effort identified him as someone with a heart for children.
Gibson said he had no political interest. He was the proprietor of the J. L. Gibson Memorial School, where the free meals were prepared. To build sustainability for the weekly feeding program, Gibson established the Florence Bracewell Lardner Children Foundation in memory of his grandmother.
Gibson always said since kids were one group of Liberia’s most vulnerable people, they should be supported well in every way and no parent should have an excuse for not providing life’s basic necessities to their children. He was also concerned about the fate of the group of youths known as ‘Zogos’ or at-risk men and women, comprising drug addicts and wayward individuals, who have made the various graveyards their homes. Gibson said unless the Liberian government and those Liberians who could make a difference decide to use their resources to make serious intervention to help the ‘Zogos’, Liberia stands to lose many of the youths who should others be helping to develop the country.
During discussions, he said he was in the process of completing the official registration of the foundation as a not-for-profit organization to garner support from the Liberian government and other private NGOs for the children.
Since 2014, Gibson held a Christmas Party for the kids in the community every December 25, and parents have expressed their appreciation for his feeding program.
On Saturday, Jan. 25, I was with Phillip Gibson on Gurley Street as at least 100 kids, some as young as six months and others on their parents’ backs, received their regular meal. The kids came from Newport Street, Gurley Street, and Center Street.
Gibson’s death would hurt the kids who have benefited from what he committed to do to ease the suffering of others. Now that Gibson is dead from what a family source diagnosed as ‘pressure’, we should pray that God will remember Phillip L. Gibson for the good he did for the 100 or more children he fed every week on Gurley Street.
The author, Omari Jackson, visited Gibson every Saturday to help him and other volunteers feed less fortunate kids.