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Odell Reed, 80, church food service volunteer who fed the homeless

She had a knack for raising funds for church programs.

Odell Reed
Odell ReedRead more

ODELL REED was all about helping people, a passion that went in several directions in her long life.

Working through her church, Tindley Temple United Methodist, she fed the homeless for 15 years as head of the soup kitchen.

She made sure the needy people who came to the church were taken care of. Every Christmas, some 150 to 175 needy people each got a gift, as well as a hot meal. On Thanksgiving, there was roast turkey with all the trimmings. Throughout the year, the church fed hundreds of homeless and underprivileged people every week.

"My mother was a very special person," said her daughter, Equilla Reed. "She was very giving and loving. She was into helping everyone."

Odell Reed, who worked in administration at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for 30 years, a music lover and world traveler, died March 26 after a long illness. She was 80 and lived in West Philadelphia.

Odell was a true daughter of the South, born the eldest of the 12 children of Anna T. and Henry Chambers in Halifax County, Va. She attended the Mary Bethune High School in Halifax.

She came to Philadelphia in the early '60s, and went to work at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Odell brought her Southern cooking expertise with her to Philadelphia. She specialized in collard greens and loved to bake, with sweet potato pie and lemon cake as her featured desserts.

One of Odell's important talents was raising funds for the church programs. She wrote letters to potential donors, and got gifts of food from major companies.

"She was good at getting what she wanted," said her daughter. And, of course, everything Odell wanted was for others, never for herself.

She was active in encouraging the homeless to get off the streets, and found jobs for many.

Odell was also involved in a regular church program to provide medical tests and health advice for members and anyone else who came to the church. She rounded up medical experts to explain the dangers of AIDS and other diseases and how to prevent them.

When her son, Kevin Reed, attended the Powelton Elementary School, Odell was head of the PTA.

Odell was a dedicated traveler in her youth, going with family, friends and church groups around the United States, to Mexico, Hawaii and even Africa.

Odell was also into sewing, and loved all kinds of music, from opera to soul and gospel and everything in between.

She married James Reed in 1956.

Besides her husband, son and daughter, she is survived by five brothers, Obie, Harry, Eddie, Wade and Ray Chambers; three sisters, Theresa Chambers, Loretta Perkins and Arlene Wright; and two grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m. tomorrow at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, 750 S. Broad St. Friends may call at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be in Eden Cemetery, Collingdale.