NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A man is trying to keep his grandparents’ philanthropic mission alive after they lost their lives to COVID-19.
Calvin and his wife Tanya “Susie” Culp ran the Elmer Back Gifting Center in Newport News since they took it over from Susie’s late father Elmer Back. He started the initiative in the late 1980s and carried it on until his death in 2005.
The Culps decided to name the gifting center nonprofit after Elmer, with a mission of providing goods for other nonprofits to buy and distribute to those in need.
Their grandson, Corey Culp, says his grandparents always had a passion for giving back.
“They opened their hearts to everybody,” he said. “If you called them and told them you needed a dollar and they didn’t have a dollar to their name, they’re going to find you a dollar regardless. They were just so selfless.”
The center receives hundreds of donations from major retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Bed Bath and Beyond as a division of Good 360.
Dion Witherspoon kept coming back to volunteer to help Susie and Calvin Culp, people he described as walking miracles.
“If you don’t have someone here helping out, then it’s going to build up, build up, build up,” he said. “You had like a slew of different volunteers come in at different times to just trying to help out in any way possible.”
The couple tragically died just a few days apart from COVID-19. Corey Culp, current staff and volunteers need extra help to go through all of the goods delivered.
They say it’s all about keeping Susie and Calvin Culp’s legacy alive.
“It’s not about making money, it’s about them being able to afford to help somebody else and come by and get some socks or some underwear or some shirts or a toy for a gift for a child,” said Witherspoon.
Corey hopes to provide new opportunities, like a food pantry, for those in the community once they get enough help to go through the current supply of goods they have.
“This is my pride and joy,” he said. “I don’t want to just shut this place down and watch it go down the drain. I want to keep this legacy going.”
The viewing for Susie and Calvin Culp will be held at W. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home on Dec. 29 at 6 p.m.
If you’re interested in volunteering, call 715-291-7888.