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Gail Graybill Carson
Think about the last gift you received. What was it? Who gave it to you? Did it have any significance? Gail Graybill Carson knows that the very best gifts are given out of an abundance of love.
The store is called Love Give Live (LGL) Gallery & Gifts, it’s located at the Village Shoppes at Brighton, and it’s Gail’s “passion in action.” Before you even step foot inside, a sign outside the door reads “100% of proceeds donated to charity.” A non-profit 501 c3, the store opened in 2014 with the mission to generate ongoing revenue streams for nonprofit organizations that share LGL’s passions. Gail and her husband James felt a calling to invest in the store and the community in order to pursue a mission of alleviating suffering and promoting wholeness.
The staff is made of volunteers of all ages and walks of life. The store is filled with a variety of unique handmade items, many purchased from local, national, and global nonprofit organizations—and focuses on five areas of interest: Africa, animals, art, people, and purpose. You can find anything from original artwork made by local artists to handmade paper bead jewelry made by women in Uganda.
Although her store is new to the area, she is not. “When people ask me if I’m local, I say I’ve been here three hundred years because my family has. I’m born and bred Lancaster County,” she says with honor. “I went to Manheim Central. That bred into me a love of football,” she laughs. While she did graduate from Penn State University with a degree in Agricultural Business Management, her family encouraged her to focus on the business side.
Carson spent eleven years in the corporate world residing in Williamsport, Louisville, Kentucky, and Ephrata. In 1997 she married and moved to Collegeville. Two years later, she celebrated the birth of her daughter, Sierra. “After she was born, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I tell people I had two stay at home parents—because my parents were farmers.” she says with great admiration. So she started making custom candy bar wrappers and pursued art, graphics, and design. After her marriage dissolved, she relocated back to Lancaster County. Wilbur Chocolate quickly became her biggest customer with Gail designing all their decorative bar overwraps. Twenty-three years later, she began attending the Manheim church she grew up in and met and married James Carson, MD.
Gail has a progressive form of MS. “In 1995 I had my first symptom. I lost vision in one eye for about six weeks. I was at the Rose Bowl, watching Penn State play the Oregon Ducks when it happened,” she recalls. The doctors recognized the optical neuritis as a common first diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. “But it was completely restored and I went about my life and had follow-up visits. Slowly the MS did start to creep in to the point where I am now,” she says, seated in her scooter. “I thought that was the end,” she says. All her volunteer efforts stopped. “As difficult times in our life can do, they draw us back to our core—to what we’re made of,” she says. “I never questioned my spiritual beliefs and my faith in God.”
Rather than feel sorrow or pity or ask God why, she decided to look at things from a different perspective. She knew she was still the same leader and passionate volunteer she had always been. For the next two years she found herself fascinated by art. For hours and hours she would look at artists and their works on the Internet and learn about them and their talents. “One day my husband asked, ‘What are you going to do with all this art you’re buying?’ and without missing a beat, I said ‘I’m going to sell it—open a store.” As soon as the words left her lips, she knew it wasn’t her plan. Slowly, though, she realized it was her purpose. But how would she help those artists? How would she figure out which organizations to give to? “The bottom line is that all these great nonprofits that are trying to relieve suffering and promote wholeness need money. My background was business. And my husband and I felt called to make this store an investment—to give away all the money that the store makes” she says.
LGL’s namesake is based on the principles of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The checkmark in the word “love” in the store’s logo represents that we should all check our motives and make sure our gift is given out of a spirit of love. “Love unconditionally. Give generously. Live abundantly. Who can argue with those?” she asks.