'An amazing woman:' Sylvia Wiggins prepares to be grand marshal of Raleigh Christmas Parade

Joel Brown Image
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Wiggins prepares to be Grand Marshal of Raleigh Christmas Parade
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The 2022 grand marshal of the ABC 11 Leithcars.com Raleigh Christmas Parade is Sylvia Wiggins whose been serving and giving back to the city for nearly 50 years.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The 2022 grand marshal of the ABC11 Leithcars.com Raleigh Christmas Parade is Sylvia Wiggins whose been serving and giving back to the city for nearly 50 years. On Saturday, the city she's given so much to -- will celebrate her.

A day with Wiggins at Raleigh Rescue Mission means you never stop moving. Donations suddenly arrive at the door -- she's there with a smile. "Look at you helping out! Hey sweetheart!" she says with her downhome grin to the kind strangers at the door.

Wiggins is non-stop energy. So, it was no surprise her answer to the first question: Her reaction to being named grand marshal for the parade.

"I said, 'Ahhhh!" she yelled. "Oh no, I didn't. I said, yes! I was so blessed and appreciative and excited. Because this call came just out of the blue."

Wiggins is no stranger to the parade. There she was in a bright yellow jacket last year, mid-parade, making sure her fan-favorite Helping Hand Mission Marching Mand was marching and sounding just so.

But it's what Wiggins does for Raleigh's neediest -- that she's being honored for. She founded her Helping Hand Mission in Raleigh in 1973 -- housing dozens at a time at the mission on New Bern Avenue.

"You run across circumstances where there's need. Sometimes people are fleeing a situation; some people got little things going on in their life. So this is really a stopover," Wiggins said as she walked the halls.

She's used her mission on Rock Quarry Road to provide meals to the hungry. When it's cold, there is Wiggins with free coats and space heaters for families. And when it's hot, there are free fans to beat the heat.

"I did not do it expecting to be honored," she said. "If you keeping plugging along, so many good things just happen down the road."

Helping Hand Mission is funded completely with donations and community giving. Wiggins is supported by a small army of staff and volunteers.

"(The parade) couldn't have picked a better person to be grand marshal because (Wiggins) is deserving of it all," said HHM worker Cotina Gambrell. "She's an amazing woman. She has helped so many people over the years."

But at this year's parade, the people will celebrate her. Wiggins won't be walking the route with the marching band, as she normally does. Instead, she'll get the convertible car treatment as grand marshal. She's already working on her wave.