Personality: Michael R. Pearson Sr.

Spotlight on creator of nonprofit Friends Helping Friends

7/17/2015, 1:59 a.m.
Michael Ray Pearson Sr. is on speed dial to help others in need. For the past eight years, his Richmond-based ...

Michael Ray Pearson Sr. is on speed dial to help others in need.

For the past eight years, his Richmond-based nonprofit — Friends Helping Friends — has put on a free summer basketball camp at Armstrong High School in the East End for underprivileged children. His group also has hosted a similar camp in Petersburg that is directed by former Virginia State University women’s basketball Coach Leon Bey. The group also provides holiday meals for needy families and has raised money for other people-helping causes. Mr. Pearson, a bail bondsman and owner of two adult group homes, simply sees giving to others as paying forward what was given to him.

“I reflect on the assistance my family received when I was growing up,” he says. “It’s necessary because there are a lot of people in need, some of whom may not receive any assistance because there is not enough to go around.”

The camp at Armstrong High, called Champions Youth Developmental Basketball Camp, is for boys and girls ages 9 to 13. It is scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon Monday, July 27, through Thursday, July 30. A free breakfast and lunch are included, as well as a free basketball, T-shirt and trophy for each camper.

More than 30 slots still were available Monday.

The Petersburg camp, with Petersburg Parks and Leisure Services, is slated for noon to 4 p.m. Monday, July 27, through Wednesday, July 29.

To register, call Mr. Pearson (804) 405-4472 or Bridget Thompson (804) 366-6373. Friends Helping Friends looks to help others around the nation as well.

After Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, the group partnered with Hunton & Williams law firm to send clothing, supplies and volunteers to assist victims in Alabama and Mississippi. It also hosted a golf tournament to purchase school supplies for an elementary school in New Orleans.

And last year, Mr. Pearson’s son, Jordan Randolph Pearson, wrote a play titled “Choices,” the proceeds of which were used to provide a Thanksgiving dinner and gifts to 250 people suffering from homelessness, mental illness or mental disabilities.

Here’s a look at this week’s Personality, Michael Ray Pearson Sr.:

Education: George Wythe High School and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Family: Wife, Denise W. Pearson; daughter, LaTrellé J. Layton; three sons, Raymond L. Layton Jr., Michael Ray Pearson Jr. and Jordan R. Pearson; and 3-year-old grandsons, Amir Layton and Christopher Johnson Jr.

What Friends Helping Friends means to me: Friends Helping Friends excites me because we are able to extend helping hands to others.

Our financial support comes from: Friends, organizations and churches, namely, my church, Sixth Baptist.

Activities planned: Stage play, Christmas gifts for the homeless who frequent Monroe Park in Richmond and annual basketball camp.

We could do more if: We had more volunteers.

Definition of a friend: A person who does not judge — who is by your side through the thick and the thin.

I’m driven by: Providing support to my family and friends.

Best late-night snack: York Peppermint Pattie.

Prized possession: Mercedes charm.

Outlook at start of day: How to maintain order and cohesiveness within my businesses.

What makes me tick: Money.

When people first meet me they think: I am the nicest guy in the world.

Persons who influenced me the most: Dr. Yvonne Jones Bibbs, pastor of Sixth Baptist Church; Michael Snavely, former supervisor at Hunton & Williams law firm and friend; and Dr. Leon Wright Bey, brother-in-law and friend.

Book that influenced me the most: “From Morning ’til Evening: The Autobiography of Grady W. Powell Sr.” He also happens to be my uncle.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it is: It’s not what you go through, but what you grow through.

Next goal: To grow Friends Helping Friends into a foundation and to open a thrift store, the proceeds of which will be used to create employment opportunities, provide emergency relief, feed the homeless and host annual basketball camps for boys and girls.