The 40-year Concord resident was one of the founders of the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), helping save dogs and cats from being euthanized. Although that was more than 20 years ago, she still feeds and cares for stray cats and tries to find homes for them.
After three years at ARF, Gleason went to work for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties. She put her fundraising skills to good use as the corporate and foundation relations manager and continued to help those in need for 18 years there.
On a mission
It was during one of her outings to feed stray cats that she met Bill, a homeless man living in his car behind a fast-food restaurant off Highway 4. Bill had noticed her feeding the cats and had taken a video of some strays.
One day, they talked and Bill offered to show her his video. When Gleason learned that Bill was disabled and wanted to get out of living in his car, she knew she wanted to help him in some way.
Gleason was no stranger to helping the homeless. She contacted Dave and Mary Kenmitz of D&H Enterprises, which often refurbishes cars for charity, to find out if they had an RV or camper that could be donated for Bill. They did, but the path ahead would not be easy.
Gleason soon realized that finding a place to park the trailer would be the first roadblock. Trailer parks were too expensive for Bill’s meager disability checks. After a long search, Bill had a friend connect them with a property owner who needed some night security and would allow Bill to park his trailer in exchange for work.
Network of friends
The next obstacles were gaining permission from the city of Pleasant Hill and getting the trailer livable, all of which Gleason helped Bill achieve. Through her vast network of friends and colleagues, she had the trailer towed to the location, obtained propane tanks and donations of a refrigerator, microwave and TV, along with various repairs.
“It took a village,” said Gleason. “The Kenmitzes connected us with a repairman, and through Facebook, there were offers of help and donations for Bill.”
Gleason set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for still-needed repairs and a vehicle for Bill to be able to tow the trailer and get to doctors’ appointments. (See gofundme.com/f/help-bill-improve-his-life.) A friend of hers brought a planter of flowers. Another gave Bill a haircut.
“Kathy has been relentless making sure I had a place to live,” Bill said. “The resources she has seems unending. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve gotten.”
Bill was born and raised in Concord, then lived in Hayward for a while. He became homeless several years ago after his marriage broke up and his job disappeared when the company he worked for closed.
After couch surfing at friends’ places for a while, he found himself living in his car, which no longer runs. He struggles with a foot injury and breathing problems. However, he now has a roof over his head and is feeling better. Gleason continues to take Bill food, organizes repairs and supplies, and arranges for people to pick up his prescriptions.
“The homeless problem is not going to resolve itself,” stated Gleason. “Police can’t fix it; government can’t do it. The public is going to have to step in and help.”
And in Bill’s case, they have.
“I didn’t know there were this many kind people in the world,” Bill said.
This is the second in our Pioneer series, Heroes Among Us, featuring the unsung, those that simply do good because that’s who they are. Do you know someone who should be featured? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include their name and contact info.
Kara Navolio is a freelance writer, telling stories of real life heroes and interesting people for several local newspapers since 2015, including The Pioneer and Lamorinda Weekly. She is also the editor of a local magazine, Northgate Living, and her debut children’s picture book Everybody Can Dance! was released by Brandylane Publishers, Inc. in May 2019. She has lived in Walnut Creek with her husband for 30 years and is the mom of two now grown children.