Gregg Mitchley is dedicating his lift to spreading warmth, smiles and humanity.
The Benoni resident, who is fondly called Mitchi, launched the Gregg Mitchley Foundation (GMF) in 2019. Its mission is to support those in need, specifically elderly people and children.
Mitchi worked in the motor industry for many years but felt unfulfilled. “I hated being behind a desk and wanted to make a meaningful contribution to society,” he says.
Towards the end of 2017, Mitchi’s dad Darryl passed away at Rand Aid Association’s Thembalami Care Centre in Lombardy East, where he had lived for over five years. His passing was one of the factors that made Gregg determined to change his life.
“My dad’s life was a struggle. He battled financially and socially. I know he loved us but he was frustrated because he was unable to give us everything he wanted to,” shares Mitchi. “He basically lived in his own little world – he was a huge introvert and never lived life to the full,” says Mitchi.
Another death, that of one of his heroes, rugby player James Small in July 2019, again shook Mitchi’s world when he realised he was still not living the life he envisaged for himself.
“James had such passion for life – whether he was playing rugby or having a shooter in a bar,” says Mitchi. “I realised that I would rather pass away at 50, having lived life to the fullest like James, than pass at 90 without living at all,” he says.
The very next month, Mitchi’s life took a positive turn when he launched the GMF, with the backing of long-time friend and humanitarian Alistair McDonald of the auctioneering firm Michael James Organisation.
Finally, Mitchi’s dream of helping others began to take shape.
“I have so much respect for Alistair; not only has his financial backing given me this opportunity to serve others but he genuinely wants to help people. We are very similar in that we are both giving.”
In less than a year, the GMF has facilitated dozens of donations and has held numerous events – all of which have been personally overseen by Mitchi. He believes in being hands-on and loves nothing more than interacting on a personal level with the people his foundation supports.
Thembalami, where his dad was so well cared for until his death, has been one of the GMF’s beneficiaries from the get-go.
“I love the way the Thembalami team treats their residents. “They are so caring and so loving,” he says.
The care centre’s elderly residents have benefited from donations of goods; enjoyed a pamper session organised by Mitchi and friends to boost the residents’ self-esteem; and some were treated to live cricket at the Wanderers. He even took four of the residents on holiday to Ramsgate on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
“These elders had never flown in an aeroplane before or seen the sea. They had never before felt sand between their toes. It was humbling to witness their joy,” he says.
“People don’t realise how blessed they are. Even in the toughest of times, we have a choice of food and a warm bed to sleep in,” says Mitchi.
A core philosophy of the GMF is Kindness in Action. “People want to be more involved. They generally don’t just want to give a donation; they want to be hands on and they want to know how their money is being spent. Others might want to do something to help people with less but feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start.
“The GMF calls for public involvement one event at a time. People can donate funds or can give of their time and expertise,” says Mitchi, who personally attends all events – interacts, shares videos and posts online so donors see where their money is going.
Mitchi remembers that as a child, while their basic needs were met, they lived with great financial uncertainty. When he was in primary school, he remembers their house and other possessions being repossessed.
Hard times followed but through it all, he remembers his mom standing tall and not losing her empathy for others. “Although we were struggling, she always wanted to help other people. I like to believe she passed this gift on to me.”
Gregg ‘Mitchi’ Mitchley.
Kindness in Action:
Children and older people are close to Mitchi’s heart.
Mitchi loves interacting with people. One of his daily goals is to make people smile.
Parcels of goodies ready for distribution.
Mitchi with Sean White, Aiden Muthikrishna and Adrienne Bass, the Thembalami Care Centre residents he took on holiday.
Not all of Mitchi’s handouts have a monetary value.
A little love goes a long way.