NEW ORLEANS – Think of it as a “Secret Santa” all year long.
That’s how Pleasant Rankins describes the close group of family and friends she calls the “solution team.” You may never know their names, and they’ll never tell you the names of the people they help. But Rankins cannot say “no” to anyone in need.
“If someone calls me and I can’t help, I’m driven crazy,” she says. “I go nuts. I pout. I just find a way. ”
Rankins says her passion for giving began about ten years ago with a personal crisis that she and her husband endured without the emotional support they desperately needed. The experience could have left Rankins turning inward, withdrawing from the community. Instead, she started reaching out.
A knock on the door, a phone call, a plea from a friend of a friend– Rankins never turns anyone away. She and her team have housed the homeless, counseled teenagers about pregnancy, bought uniforms for neighborhood kids’ sports teams, tutored students, held parties at Christmas, supported survivors of violence, paid for funerals– the list goes on.
Without any big donors or government grants, she and her grass roots group just make things happen. She cooks plate lunches to sell, and holds fundraisers in her “Pleasant Palace” event hall in Marrero. But her dream is to have the funds to help people who need a place to stay.
“Every homeless person is not on the street. They’ll put up with what they have to put up with, to have food or have water, or basic supplies you need every day,” she says, and they may wind up temporarily homeless — needing help to pay the next month’s rent or utilities.
Like the call she got recently from someone in Texas, asking her to help a single mom and five children who “were living in a park” in Marrero.
“And we went,” says Rankins. “We went.”
She says most shelters couldn’t have found a way to let the family stay together, because the children were two boys and three girls, and shelters tend to separate families by sex.
“I want to open a place,” she says, where we don’t have to turn anyone away.”
In the meantime, there’s an upcoming fashion show at the event hall to raise money, and then Rankins and her friends will make Easter baskets for the neighborhood children.
How does she do it? She gives the credit to her family, friends, and pastor.
“Standing on God’s Word,” she says. “I’m just standing on God’s Word.”
To find out about upcoming fundraising events, check out Pleasant Rankins’ Twitter page: @PleasantShould1
More remarkable facts about Pleasant Rankins:
Husband: Lawrence Rankins
Children: “Five sons, four daughters, and 30 grand kids.” (you read that right!)
Hobbies: “I’m too busy” … but she’s a proud member of her husband’s motorcycle club
Person who inspired you: “My aunt, because you could go to her for anything…and Patti Labelle, because she always reminded me of being a warrior.“
Advice for the next generation: “Keep pushing. Don’t let anyone deter you.”
Motto: “Standing on God’s Word.”