Dover’s Gassi rises up to help area’s needy

Benita Gassi, center, with personal assistant, Chantell Scott, left, and Ta’nia Henson, an intern from Delaware State University, go  through clothes at a community closet where the local needy can select articles of clothing and items such as furniture and shoes, free of charge. It is located above her Benita’s World of Beauty on Forest Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Benita Gassi, center, with personal assistant, Chantell Scott, left, and Ta’nia Henson, an intern from Delaware State University, go through clothes at a community closet where the local needy can select articles of clothing and items such as furniture and shoes, free of charge. It is located above her Benita’s World of Beauty on Forest Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Benita Gassi remembers the struggles she faced and the doubts she received from those who always seemed to want to cast a shadow over her.

There were many people who didn’t think she would have much of a future as she raised three children while still a student at Milford High School.

Ms. Gassi, now 44, never listened to those doubters as she defied the odds of being a teenage mother and is now thriving as a local business owner and community activist.

However, she makes sure those difficult times remain fresh in her memory. Her biggest passion is giving back to those less fortunate.

Ms. Gassi owns Benita’s World of Beauty Salon, at 680 Forest St. in downtown Dover, and is about to have her own channel on ACT Boom, an internet streaming network that will launch in November.

“I was a teenage mother who didn’t have much and I had all of my kids by my senior year,” Ms. Gassi said. “People would always say, ‘Oh, she’s not going to graduate, she’s not going to do this.’

“And I still graduated from Milford High School and I owned my first salon at the age of 27, and I’ve always wanted to help others. It’s just always been a thrill to me to give back.”

Ms. Gassi and her assistant Chantell Scott opened the Community Closet in July in a room above her salon where the needy can come and select clothes and other things, such as furniture and shoes, free of charge.

It is something that is near and dear to Ms. Gassi’s heart.

“I’ve always done clothing drives but I just wanted to make it bigger,” she said. “Instead of just doing it once every blue moon, I wanted something every day that people could come to or people could donate to.

“Everything’s free. And it’s not just clothes, it’s whatever people donate. I had somebody donate furniture and we gave it to a girl that just got her very first apartment. They donate TVs and everything. Whatever everybody brings in, I try to let people know that they can come and get it.”

Ms. Gassi also hosts an annual Stop the Violence event between August and September, a toy drive in December and she feeds the needy during the holidays.

She said that it’s something that comes naturally to her.

“My parents were givers,” she said. “We always gave homeless people places to stay and things of that nature. It’s just something that’s been instilled in me since I was a little girl.

“My favorite thing about Dover is just being a local who loves to give back.”

Ms. Gassi serves as an inspiration to Ms. Scott and Ta’nia Henson, an intern from Delaware State University.

“I feel like she’s really working hard to give back to the community where she came from,” Ms. Scott said. “I met her when I was going to Delaware State University and she was a single mom living in public housing.

“To watch her over the years raise her children and have her own business and thrive and move up in the ranks and now giving back to the community and doing so many positive things … It’s all very positive, and also inspiring.”

In November, she will celebrate two years of having her own TV show, “The Ms. Bonita Show,” which used to be broadcast on Fox 21. The show will air next month on Channel 21 on ACT Boom, which she said is sort of like Hulu or Netflix.

“My TV show is basically community-based,” Ms. Gassi said. “I go around and I give free advertising to the local vendors and small businesses. I also promote happiness — like weddings and graduations and things like that. Anything happy, I want to show it on my show.”

Ms. Gassi stays in tune with what’s going on in the city. She is a regular visitor to Dover City Hall for City Council meetings and if she can’t make it, Ms. Scott is there taking notes for her.

Over the years she has proven that she is a fighter and definitely has her priorities in order.

“First and foremost, I’m the owner of Benita’s World of Beauty Salon,” Ms. Gassi said. “Secondly, I am definitely a community activist. I do a lot of givebacks and fundraisers.

“I’m busy. I stay busy. I always try my best to help out in the community. That is one thing that will always be very important to me.”

To donate items or for the needy to arrange an appointment to receive free clothes and other items, call Ms. Gassi at (302) 526-2350.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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