Gregory Sheldon still hits up the festivals and concert circuits.
The only difference now is that instead of selling incense and macramE art to score tickets to the next show, he’s sending the money to Ecuador and India to help fund ramshackle schools and improve the lives of some the world’s poorest inhabitants.
Sheldon’s physical journey may have brought him around the world, but his personal journey has brought him from a carefree adolescent with an affinity for the party scene to the 28-year-old humanitarian that he is today.
The death of his best friend, Eden Roe, in 2005 was a pivotal turning point in Sheldon’s life and sparked the eventual creation of a non-profit organization that he has named The Eden’s Rose Foundation.
Sheldon said it was not simply one event that changed his path in life, but more `a culmination` of events that include several friends dying ` including Roe ` and his sister being in a `horribly debilitating` accident.
An Albany native, Sheldon finished his junior and senior year of high school at Bethlehem Central.
`Growing up in Albany I didn’t exactly fit in here I got into a lot of trouble,` Sheldon said of his time in Bethlehem. `Me and my man Eden were talking a lot about philosophy and mathematics when all this stuff went down.`
The experience of Roe’s death proved to be traumatic for Sheldon.
`When Eden died, I don’t know, that’s where it all changed I think,` he said. `I don’t know what it was about that church but I started going to the Unionville Methodist Church. There were only about 15 of 20 people there, but I would drive in from Albany and sit in the back.`
It wasn’t long before the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina settled in that a congregant Chuck Phillips told Sheldon, `We’re going down to Mississippi.`
Sheldon and others went down South for the recovery effort and raised $15,000 for one project.
Since that trip, Sheldon hasn’t looked back.
`I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never experienced anything like that before, it was like a welcome home to society,` he said of helping natural disaster victims. `It changed me having people accept me for the way I am it was like I woke up in paradise.`
A couple of months later Sheldon joined a group with Habitat for Humanity to build some homes in Ecuador, but when the entourage left there was still work to be done.
`The weeks goes by and we’re building these houses and the end of the trip comes and three houses aren’t done, one of them doesn’t have a roof on it,` said Sheldon. `I can’t leave. I don’t speak a word of Spanish but I made a last minute decision to stay behind and help the families finish their homes.`
It is a small village outside of Santo Domingo, Ecuador, that Sheldon agrees to stick around and go with the pastor of a small church to help the poor inhabitants of rural villages in the area.
`He tells me, ‘I need you to help me right now,’` Sheldon said of the original encounter with the pastor. `I say ‘OK, I have a camera, maybe we can take some photos and get a local church or organization to help out back home.’`
However, one of the scenes included a family living in a 6 by 6 foot hut, who had an infant baby that was not moving. Sheldon called his mother, Kim, who is in the medical field, begging for help with child.
`He calls me up and says he needs me to come down right away and that there’s a baby dying,` Kim Sheldon said. `They kept that baby alive with an eye dropper and traveled all over the country before he could save her and get a doctor to treat her.`
Sheldon said the first two doctors took one look at the sick infant and said `bring it back to its home, it’s dying.`
Sheldon came home after the experience to sell his home.
`As soon as I get to the States, I mortgaged my house and I got over to India,` he said.
Sheldon went on to continue his adventures in Tibet, India, and several South American countries.
He collects goods and ware made in the countries he visits and sells them at concerts and small store front in America. All of the money goes back to those who make the goods.
His current project is in Ecuador.
Sheldon’s girlfriend teaches local women the art of macramE, which is being sold here in order to help improve dilapidated schools and support `basic needs resource centers,` which Sheldon said speaks for itself.
`We don’t even know what poor is,` he said. `In a place like Bethlehem, we have no idea. We are like the top percentile of the entire world in terms of our quality of life.`
Eden Roe’s mother, Joleen, is a Bethlehem Central teacher. She said she and her husband couldn’t be prouder that Greg is carrying on their son’s name for such an amazing cause.
`Greg was a close friend of our son, Eden, and after Eden passed away Greg wanted to do his part to make the world a better place, while at the same time keeping Eden’s spirit alive,` Roe said. `Jim and I are both touched by his efforts and I am sure it will continue to be an ongoing project for him.
`As I believe Picasso once said, ‘While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about,’` said Roe. `The scope of projects that our young people in this great country of ours are involved in will never cease to amaze me. It is possible to change the world one person at a time.`
For those interested in purchasing the handmade goods, which include incense, soapstone incense holders, sweaters, macramE and tapestries, e-mail [email protected], [email protected], or call Sheldon at 221-9299.