Meet Ericka Parker of Virginia, founder and CEO of G.R.I.P.P Outreach Program. Ms. Parker knows all too well the feelings of children with absent and incarcerated parents. Her father, Donnie “Gripp” Griffin, was incarcerated in 2000 when she was only thirteen years old. Growing up without a father was in itself a difficult experience, but when the judicial system became involved, her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness increased dramatically. She was always encouraged to communicate with her father through letters, gradually reducing her feelings of abandonment, but her desire for true self-knowledge grew in the year of his release in 2005.
Unfortunately, the bonding process between the two was cut short when Griffin passed away of cancer nine months after his release. This was a major “speed bump” to her growth. Parker understood that the past held vital information for her future progress. The connection to her past now gone left her with many unanswered questions and concerns, and a keen awareness of the immensity of the loss to her and so many children of incarcerated parents.
Gripp Outreach Program was established not only to commemorate Parker’s late father, but also to help low-income families and children in similar circumstances heal through various platforms. Sadly, statistics show most children follow the path of their incarcerated parents as a result of their absence. Donations help fund this organization’s initiative to provide school supplies for children they mentor and tutor. This program will also be able to provide trips, activities, and seminars to aid families in developing coping and reunification strategies. Their goal is to teach children that they are not alone and can achieve anything.
My greatest accomplishment to date has been:
My greatest accomplishment came in May 2012 when I received my master’s degree in Psychology despite the many obstacles that tried to slow me down. My passion has always been to help others, and my degree gets me closer to doing the work I was set to do every day.
The most challenging thing I ever experienced was:
Burying my father and forgiving him. Many children expect to bury their parents, but not at a young age. It was difficult knowing exactly how to feel considering we had been estranged for so many years. Forgiving him for all the years lost was just as hard. Forgiving is something that we all must to learn how to do, not only because it is the right thing to do, but it also helps us release the negative energy we tend to build up holding on to that hurt.
Most Valuable Lesson(s): I’ve learned is to love me no matter what! There have been many times I thought I did not deserve something or someone because of my situations or lack of something I “thought I should have.” Life is not a competition, and when I started accepting that we all have different paths, gifts, and callings I learned to focus more on myself. The more you focus on you, the more you learn about yourself. This helps with the process of loving you! When you love yourself, you tend to spread the love. The return is incredible!
If you have a dream go for it-dreams are good! Turn your challenges into learning experiences, because you never know who you could help in the future.
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