TOPEKA, Kan.– A local nonprofit is working to keep the legacy of a local man alive while helping kids and young people thrive in the community.
Gil Carter was a Topeka native and played for the Negro Leagues. He’s famous for making one of the longest home runs in baseball history, slamming it over 700 feet on August 11, 1959. After retirement, he moved back to Topeka and worked with different organizations to help motivate kids and be a role model for them.
Erma Forbes was his caretaker at the end of Carter’s life. Before he died of brain cancer in 2015, she talked with him about how he’d like to be remembered. He told her he wanted kids to be cared for and to have avenues they could turn to so they could avoid trouble.
And so came about the Gil Carter Initiative. It aims to provide educational opportunities for kids and young adults.
“We find that if we give kids the opportunity to learn something, than just give them a gift, which is always good, that produces a better end result than just giving them something,” Forbes said.
The nonprofit offers lessons in cooking, music, health & wellness and more. Forbes said they want to keep these classes fun, but also help prepare kids for the future.
“The intention is to give them something that they could depend on later on in life,” she said.
Although it’s still new and small, the Gil Carter Initiative has done quite a bit in the community already. They held a health fair at the Topeka Performing Arts Center and partnered with a local dentistry to hold a mobile dental service right in the parking lot.
Forbes said this organization is open to all people.
“Mr. Carter represented everyone. He had children even when he was ill and dying,” she said. “All children, Black children, white children, Indian children. And that’s what we represent.”
The nonprofit typically holds its biggest fundraiser around Carter’s birthday in November. They’re hoping to hold it this year after foregoing it in 2020 due to the pandemic. And every Thursday night at the facility, people can eat Caribbean food for $12.50 to help raise money for the organization.
Forbes hopes the four acres on their property, located at 2600 SE 23rd St in Topeka, can serve the community well.
“I’d like to see people come together here and help and feel that they belong and this is a part of them and this belongs to the community,” she said.
When it comes to learning opportunities for the kids, Forbes said the possibilities are endless.
All to honor the man behind the name, Gil Carter.
The facility’s H-VAC system was stolen recently during a burglary. The Gil Carter Inititative is looking for donations to help replace that. They’re also looking for other donations of things like musical instruments and artists to help them finish the murals on the sides of the building.
If you’d like to donate or volunteer, or if you’re interested in signing your kid up for one of the classes, you can send an email to [email protected] or call Forbes at (785) 260-9195. You can visit www.gcarterinitiative.org for more information.