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Gentry Thrives on Challenges

“You know that book 'Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?' That’s me, except my book is titled 'Everything I need to know I learned from being homeless,'" says Doris Gentry.

Doris Gentry’s life is filled with doing for others: public service, teaching future foster parents, hosting a regular TV show, chairing fundraisers and community events.

She’s also run twice for state assembly and, along with her husband Jim, has provided a foster home for more than 100 teenaged boys since 1995.

“I’m a type-A work alcoholic. I would much rather be working than relaxing,” Gentry said, with a serious look on her usually smiling face.

A childhood of homelessness

Now 57, Gentry says she and her older sister pretty much grew up without a home of their own.

Their mother would “pawn my sis and I off on friends or neighbors,” Gentry recalled.

“We were living in Florida. Mom would tell a friend or neighbor her mother, who was living in Maryland, was sick and could they take us girls in for a few days – week, while she went to take care of her mother,” Gentry said.

“Of course my grandma wasn’t sick. My Mom would call the neighbors right before she was supposed to pick us up and say she needed a few more days,” Gentry continued. “Then she’d call again a few days later.

“Finally the people who we were staying with would tell her to either pick up her kids or they would call the cops.

“That’s all it took. Within hours she would show up at their doorstep. She used that story time and time again to dump my sister and I on someone,” Gentry said.

“There were times when my sis and I slept under a bridge. We didn’t know where our mother was. We were homeless."

Rattlesnake for dinner

“There was a time when the three of us were living in a cheap motel in Arizona – the floors were dirt. It was in the middle of the desert. My mom got arrested and was in jail for a month,” Gentry said.

“The neighbors looked out for us. I remember when they would get home from work at night they would go out and shoot rattlesnakes. They would skin the snakes and cook the meat and share it with us. I must have eaten rattlesnake cooked every way possible.”

School of hard knocks

Gentry said she seldom attended school. “The only time I went to school like regular kids was when I lived with my grandma. That was for my fourth, seventh and eighth grades.”

Valuing an education, Gentry said, she got her GED when she was 22. By then she’d been in the work force for a good part of her life.

“Starting when I was 14, I always worked, most of the time two jobs,” she said.

Although Gentry quickly admits she had a “rough” childhood, she also believes it was an education in itself.

“You know that book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? That’s me, except my book is titled 'Everything I need to know I learned from being homeless,'" she said.

Gentry credits her positive outlook, her determination to succeed and her “very high IQ” as her lifesavers.

“I was able to think and plan my path that gratefully led to where I am now,” she said.

“She is really cool”

The Gentrys have four grown children. At this time, they have only one foster child, Kiwi Olea, 18, who has been with the family for several months.

“She (Gentry) is really cool. She puts herself out there to make sure I’m comfortable. She makes me feel like I am one of the family,” Kiwi said.

“I don’t think I have ever seen anyone like her, who can do a whole bunch of different things at once, and do them good. She listens to me, doesn’t lecture, but gives me good advice.”

“Doris is certainly no wallflower”

Along with her many other projects, Gentry is the Foster & Kincare Education Program specialist, teaching future and current foster parents at .

John Pearson, who serves with Gentry on the board of the Foster Kids Fund in Napa, called her “the most high-energy person I know. She gives 110 percent.

“Doris is great at arranging activities for the numerous fundraisers she chairs. That woman is totally committed to her projects. I, frankly, don’t know when she finds time to sleep,” Pearson said.

“Doris is certainly no wallflower,” said Shari Erickson, co-chair of the fund.

“She gets you involved with her projects whether you want to or not. She has that charisma,” Erickson said.

In addition to being a foster child advocate, Gentry has run twice for state assembly as a Republican, chairs the annual , serves on the Republican Central Committee, organizes a multitude of Napa Valley fundraisers and has her own TV show every other Wednesday night on , called “On the Edge with Doris.”

When is this ball of energy going to retire and kick back?

“Oh, never,” she said with determination. “I still have far too much I still want to do. And as long as I have room for the kids, I will always be a foster mom.”

Deborah Russell Broman January 21, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Doris, you certainly are amazing! and I know what a dedicated person you are firsthand! Thank you for all you do for our children in the community! Deborah Russell Broman
Joe Lopez January 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Hey Doris, This story is awesome. I so enjoy working with you. It is people like you that makes what we do work. Thank you! Joe
Steve Barger January 21, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Wow Doris, since we have met we have never slowed down enough to catch up on our past lives. The past is what shapes us but what matters is where we are headed. We are all blessed to have you in our lives, You are a true Blessing to all you meet.
Jeff Feeney January 21, 2012 at 11:44 PM
We all have a story or two of some rough spots in life, but to hear of several of Doris' stories, makes the outcome even more amazing. We need more Doris Genty's!
Dorothy Leachman January 22, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Doris, you are an awesome person! Thanks for all you do for our children and our community. Keep up the good work and be Blessed! Dorothy A. Leachman
Marjorie Trammell January 22, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Doris, you are such a Blessing to our community!
Peggy Smith January 22, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Have watched your dedication for years, Doris. You are an inspiration!
Erin Ruddell Heeley January 22, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Wow!!! I'm speechless. What an amazing story of survival. You're an incredible, amazing, beautiful woman. Keep on truckin and I'll truck right along with you!!!
Doris Gentry January 22, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Thanks to all for the comments. It does not matter where we have been. It matters WHAT we do! I had to drop out of school and my life could have stopped there but it did not and I am still working, helping and touching lives. In the end, others matter and I work tirelessly to help. Hugs to you!
Judy January 22, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Hey Doris -- so nice to see this article. I think of you with fond memories of Napa Mensa and our project working with New Tech's robot competition (for FIRST) a few years back. All the best!
Mary January 22, 2012 at 10:45 PM
What an inspiration. Thank you God for the life of Doris, for her perseverance and courage to overcome some many obstacles.
Linda Johnson January 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Doris, you are truly one of God's miracles!
Scott Ellison January 23, 2012 at 04:26 AM
God has used and continues to use you in a mighty way! Praising the Lord for your life!
Geri Cannon January 23, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Wow! Who knew all of that! I pray that the Foster Children you care for can see through your life, that there is hope and a future. May you continue to be used in such a mighty way and may the Lord continue to energize you for all you do!
john fernandez January 23, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Doris, You are a wonderful testimony of the grace of God. What you have experienced would have crushed most people yet the Lord has manifested his grace in the way he has sustained and used you in others lives despite the overwhelming obstacles you have faced.
john fernandez January 23, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Doris, You are a wonderful testimony of the grace of God. What you have experienced would have crushed most people yet the Lord has manifested his grace in the way he has sustained and used you in others lives despite the overwhelming obstacles you have faced.
Ron Falstad January 23, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I always knew you were an amazing person. Someone that lives her faith out loud!
Cynthia Turnbow January 23, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Doris, Your strong leadership skills, razor sharp intellect and deep love for family, friends and community makes our world a better place. Cynthia Turnbow
Jill Davis January 23, 2012 at 11:53 PM
You are an inspiration! So glad to call you Friend. Thanks for making a difference in all those young lives.
Jeannie Puhger January 24, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Your passion inspires others and your can-do attitude brings results, thanks for all you have done for youth and adults in this community!!
JOYCE DAVIS January 24, 2012 at 04:43 PM
In spite of the pit falls of Foster care..there are those who survive and achieve!!
Debbie Dornaus January 25, 2012 at 07:52 AM
Doris has been a beacon of hope for many people in Napa Valley. She has encouraged my husband and I as we foster parented many children over a twelve year period. Her support and advice has been priceless to us. We are grateful to know her!
Laurie Urbach January 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Doris, I was stunned to read your history! Bless your heart! You truly have made lemonade when life gave your lemons. That was a remarkable story. You turned your pain & suffering into serving others. You really should write a book about your life journey. I am glad I took the time to read the article about you, it really helps me to understand your drive. God Bless you for all you do for others! God really did have a purpose for your life. You are truly a remarkable women! See you in church. Laurie Urbach When our dear friend Ron introduced us, I must admit I wondered to myself, "Does this woman ever relax?" You have always given me heartfelt counsel and resources. Not always what I have wanted to hear or receive, but always from your heart and offering a "Hand Up" not a "Hand Out"! I am blessed to have you as a friend and a part of my church family. May God continue to bless you way beyond your expectations and may you always serve Him and His kingdom. Barry Urbach
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:28 PM
What heartwarming comments. Thanks, everyone. I hear some folks have not been able to log in to comment and I'm asking the Help Desk to look into it, but here's a quick tip: Please check your spam filters for messages from Patch. Sometimes, we find that the activation email that's automatically generated when you sign up here is considered "spam" by some email programs. Not very flattering, but easily solved. If that doesn't work, please send me a note at napa@patch.com. I want Doris to get all the comment love she deserves!
Doris Gentry January 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Thanks Louisa for that tip - Napa Patch is a great source of up to the minute news - love that we have this outlet! I would like to see more people register to get their Patch every day - and everyone - thanks for so many wonderful comments. I love helping, serving and doing - it is in my blood! Hugs to Napa Woo Hoo
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Thanks, Doris! I look forward to joining you on your TV show tonight. Don't forget everybody, Doris is on Channel 28 LIVE at 8 p.m., napavalleytv.org.
Penny Hicks January 26, 2012 at 11:56 PM
You are an awesome person! Too bad we all don't have your energetic personality and get things accomplished like you do. I'm glad that I have had the pleasure to work with you on projects but most of all, I can call you my friend! Please continue all you do to benefit our Foster children and programs - you always shine and are just amazing!
Pam Silleman January 27, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Wow, Doris............this is like a I LOVE DORIS post............ok, I will add to it....... NAPA LOVES YOU DORIS!.........I am your friend, but I learned even more about you in this article...........you really are one amazing women... what is your secret: CAFFEINE?
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Attention, Doris fans! Don't miss her latest blog post, just published at http://patch.com/B-6fS
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Doris is back with a new blog post that gives interfering lawmakers a piece of her mind — with extra frosting: http://patch.com/B-7jb

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