Jerry Pryor, 73, starts his day around 5 a.m. He packs up his sleeping cot, tarp, clothes and tools that dangle inside plastic shopping bags attached to a heaping cart, and he begins his slow shuffle up and down what he calls “The Trail.”
Merchants along the stretch near Lakewood Village watch for him, hunched and dragging his familiar cart that carries all of his possessions.
Along The Trail—which spans from Cherry Avenue to Woodruff Avenue—Pryor picks up trash, trims bushes, pulls weeds and sweeps up. He brings the waitresses at Dale’s Diner cans of peaches and other gifts.
Though he’s homeless, Pryor’s presence and spirit of humble helpfulness has inspired an unlikely bond: Businesses in the area have started a GoFundMe to buy him gift cards, give him a meal and hot cup of coffee—and have even tried to find him a room.
“I’m pretty sure our street would not be clean if it wasn’t for him,” said Cassandra Vazquez, who works at Hojas Tea House in the Norse Way Triangle, which recently raised enough money to buy Pryor a new cot. “He comes to our place pretty much every day.”
The tea house collects money from its customers, and employees.
“He’s a humble man,” Vazquez said. “He always thinks about others and wants to share what he has.”
Pryor has long connections to Long Beach. He graduated from Wilson High School in 1963, and held a job at a printing plant after graduating, said his sister-in-law, Carolyn Pryor.
He lived on his own for a while, then later worked for his brother Danny and lived in a motorhome parked in his brother’s driveway.
Shortly after his brother died in 2001, the motorhome needed to be moved for some repairs to the home. Carolyn, who was married to Danny, said the family offered to pay for a place where Pryor could park his motorhome, but he wouldn’t take them up on the offer.
“There’s no strife or animosity,” she said. “He just likes to do things his own way.”
Carolyn now lives in Tennessee, and Pryor has visited a few times. She said he “always has a home if he wants it.”
In the meantime, local resident Bruce DeMille set up a GoFundMe account called “Friends of Jerry.”
DeMille uses the money to buy gift cards to grocery stores and local restaurants that Pryor likes to frequent almost daily, and all the money goes to Pryor and whatever he needs.
“Jerry’s kind of a what I call a local icon or Lakewood Village asset, and people respect what he does for the neighborhood,” DeMille said. “I don’t have any solutions myself; I’m just helping one guy and Jerry’s a good guy to help.“
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