Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We've lost a saint today: Greg Bunker

I received very sad news this morning. My dear friend, Greg Bunker, the executive director of Francis House in Sacramento, died last night of a heart attack. It was my honor and privilege to be his friend and to serve on his board for many years.

Greg was a tireless advocate for the homeless, and found endlessly creative ways to get people off the streets and on their feet. He never, never, never gave up. He built Francis House from the ground up, and it serves thousands upon thousands of people who have no other place to turn. The world has lost a saint.

I saw him last in June at a tribute by Sacramento Cottage Housing for Catholic Bishop Francis Quinn. I've always been amazed at how the various organizations working on homeless and poverty issues in Sacramento have been able to work closely with each other. A big reason for that was Greg and his willingness to find the good in everyone. He didn't have a territorial bone in his body.

Greg Bunker worked with homeless folks on a daily basis. And he spoke truth to power, getting at the heart of seemingly simple things that had a huge impact. I worked with him lobbying legislators when he discovered that ex-cons were being paroled from prison with no Department of Motor Vehicles state identification cards (and thus could not apply for a job). Greg was relentless on that issue and so many others, and he won powerful converts like Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

When the state of California invoked its imminent domaine rights to claim the property of Francis House so that the state could build the (infamous) East-End office project, many thought it was the doom of Francis House. But not Greg. He found an old building over on C Street, and built Francis House bigger and better.

Greg was a prodigious fund-raiser; he managed to get United Parcel Service to give $100,000 to rehab the old building -- the largest charitable gift in the history of UPS. That was an amazing day when Greg called to announce the grant.

Here is a video of Greg at the tent city in Sacramento, protesting how homelessness has become virtually a crime:


Kirstin said...

Thank you, Jim. You knew Greg much better than I. I'm really going to miss him. Sacramento's homeless will miss him more.

shadowlands said...

He sounds like a true saint, as you say. May the Lord grant Him eternal life, in God's own continuing City. Amen.

"whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me"

Mary Carolyn said...

I, too, lost a wonderful Christian friend yesterday: Dr. William Standish Reed. He was relentless in his faith for the healing of those who came to him for prayer. He was one of the founders of the Order of St. Luke, and spoke at CFO's for years. He believed in the holistic nature of healing and always prayed with his patients and his healing team at the time of surgery. The saddest part of this is that he and his wife were struck by a car, as they crossed the street after a Christmas Eve service.

Your saint and mine are getting acquainted with one another right now, if they don't already know one another. Dr. Bill and his first wife, who passed away several years ago, spent a lot of time in northern California. The world will miss them both.

Anonymous said...

The Sacramento community will certainly miss Greg and all of his wonderful accomplishments for those less fortunate. If anyone has information on where condolences can be sent to the Bunker family, please email me at Greg started out his social service with the Stanford Home for Children many many years ago. He will always be remembered.

Anonymous said...

Greg Bunker was one of the good guys. He was a gentle man but a fierce advocate and tireless soldier for the poor. Greg told me that Sister Mary Anne Bonpane (who I worked for for close to 18 years) gave him his start. He applied for a child care worker position but had no formal experience. Greg asked Sister if his experience caring for his siblings would qualify. Sister admired his spirit and offered him the job. He was a loyal supporter of the Sisters of Social Service and their programs. Sacramento lost a wonderful man who never gave up on the poor. It was a priviledge to know him! Donna Norris

Chris said...

I wish I had met him. Thanks for posting, Jim.