By Mary L. Robinson, Founder
I first met Gerry Glasser in 2008 when presenting a proposal for a grant to the Overlook Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees. I was quite nervous. Gerry was Chair of the Foundation at the time and the next day I received a phone call. “Hello, this is Dr. Glasser from the Overlook Foundation. I’m not calling in my role as Chair of the Overlook Hospital Foundation but rather out of my own personal interest in your mission. You see, my son Tom died on 9/11. He left behind his wife Meg and two sons, my grandchildren Dylan and Luke. I heard you say you needed space. Do you serve families from Westfield?”
And so began our friendship and Dr. Glasser’s dedication and commitment to the mission. Dr. Glasser shared, “Tom always cared about causes that helped children, and before Tom died, we dreamed of starting a foundation. After Tom’s death, I honored that dream, by starting a Foundation in Tom’s memory. The Thomas Glasser Foundation.”
At the time the I was with was looking for a home of our own as we had outgrown the beautiful space we were occupying at Christ Church in Summit. Gerry made a generous donation through the Thomas Glasser Foundation which allowed us to move into a gorgeous new center of our own in Morris County. Unfortunately that moved us further away from Gerry’s beloved hometown of Westfield where he was born and raised, (I remember him sharing a photo of himself being pushed in a baby carriage at Mindowaskin Park!) and where he also raised his own family and lived his whole life.
Not only did he provide the startup funding for Imagine which allowed us to hit the ground running, he also identified and recruited our first Board Chair, Keith Hertell. They had met recently at the Governor’s mansion and found common ground having both lost a son.
Like so many of the centers around the country, Imagine was conceived in grief and a shared desire to make sure others received the support they needed for their pain and suffering.
When Gerry died in 2013 we all lost a friend and many of the area nonprofits lost a cherished benefactor. Imagine would not exist without Gerry who was the catalyst and visionary for creating our center of healing and hope. Gerry was the kindest, most generous, and most humble person I know. I am personally indebted to him for his support and friendship, and for his mentorship and guidance.
Gerry was as generous with his time as he was with his financial support. We would meet quarterly at one of the local diners where I would bring him up to date on Imagine and where he would share his ideas and connections. He introduced us to so many of the area’s leaders and philanthropists and he wasn’t shy about gently pushing back if he thought I was off track and trying to grow Imagine too fast. We also talked about our losses, his of his son Tom, and mine of my dad. My dad was also named Gerry and I never failed to delight in reminding him of that. He remained nonplussed when I said I thought my dad had brought us together and was watching over Imagine along with Gerry.
As we celebrate this 10th anniversary of Imagine I’ve been reflecting on Dr. Glasser and what he made possible in so many children and families lives, and in my life too. My gratitude has only grown deeper every year because it’s another year of serving more children and families. When we started I couldn’t have imagined where we would be today. I always knew we would grow, but I forgot about the deep joy I would get from it personally, and the absolute breadth of lives it would touch. I love to think that he knows how we’ve grown since he’s been gone and that he too watches over Imagine along with my dad.
Starting with a grant of $35,000 in October 2011, to giving a total of $810,000 to-date, we remain indebted and deeply grateful for Gerry and The Glasser Foundation for their belief and investment in our mission. Thanks to Gerry’s initial vision and spark, Imagine has served over 1000 families, helping countless children grow up emotionally healthy and able to lead meaningful and productive lives after the worse loss in their lives. Together we are creating a world where some day no child will grieve alone.
Thank you Gerry. You done good! Love, Mary