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Friends honor the memory of a North Miami man who fed the poor.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY GATHER TO HELP THE HOMELESS IN HONOR OF A NORTH MIAMI MAN WHO MADE IT HIS MISSION TO FEED THE HUNGRY

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Eric Graves remembers watching a Heat game at AmericanAirlines Arena when he got a call from his brother asking to buy him bottles of water and bring them outside.

Just across the street from the arena, Bruce Graves was distributing food for the homeless.

“He was on a mission and it was to feed the hungry,” said Eric Graves, who stayed after the 2008 game to help his brother. A year after Bruce Graves, 37, was killed in a motorcycle accident, friends, family and co-workers volunteered at the Miami Rescue Mission, 2250 NW First Ave.

“He always told me food should never go to waste,” said Eric Graves.

Inside the mission’s dining area, around 50 volunteers who knew Bruce Graves came out to serve food, cook and donate items such as clothes and toys.

Prior to serving dinner, participants held a prayer in honor of Graves as they circled the kitchen area. In the center’s chapel, a slide show displaying pictures of Graves was shown on a projector screen, while P. Diddy’s I’ll be missing you played. More than 100 meals were served for residents of the shelter. The meal included rice, lettuce, meat and doughnuts for dessert. Volunteers also later helped feed the needy at the nearby Homeless Assistance Centers, 1550 North Miami Ave.

Graves’ godsister, Quesha Swain, helped organize the event.

“It warms my heart because he would have loved this,” said Swain, who flew in from Atlanta. “I know he is smiling looking down at us.

Graves, who attended Bethune Cookman University, lived in North Miami and is survived by daughter Acura Graves, 9. Graves was a Miami-Dade Transit bus driver and owned Best Choice Catering. After catering events, he would gather friends and family to serve the homeless leftovers.

“He would set up underneath the bridge all by himself with no help from the police,” said Jessie Lee Randle, an Alpha Phi Omega fraternity brother. He remembered going out with Graves after midnight to feed the homeless near Northwest 14th Street and Second Avenue.

The Miami Rescue Mission, founded in 1922, serves 1,000 people at three campuses in Miami, Hollywood and Pompano Beach. The Christian faith-based center also offers several programs to help the homeless find work. The center for men can house 250 people. Two blocks away, the women’s center can hold 17 adults and 40 children.

Before volunteering, friends and family gathered at his grave site located at Dade Memorial Park, 1301 Opa Locka Blvd. On Sunday, a service was held in his honor at Salem Baptist Church, 2945 NW 62nd St., led by Grave’s father, Pastor John Graves.

“It makes me feel good to see these people gather,” he said.

John Graves said he and his wife, Myrtle, taught their son the importance of helping the less fortunate. “We taught him the values of giving back.”

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