Cape grad focused on giving back

Gardner-Blackwell pursues legal remedies for underserved
June 28, 2022

Krystle Gardner-Blackwell likes fighting for the underdog.

In 2018, after a young Seaford girl was killed during a hit-and-run crash while getting her mail, Gardner-Blackwell was at the forefront of local rallies seeking justice for Germani Truitt-Handy. 

Fast forward to 2022, the Lewes native has been working hard to get a gubernatorial pardon for a man convicted as a teen for a shooting death near Greenwood. Earlier this year, the state Board of Pardons informed her they were forwarding a pardon request to Gov. John Carney.

Hayward Evans, now 35, was sent to prison when he was 14. He is set to begin work-release from prison soon, Gardner-Blackwell said.

“It’s my life,” she said. “It started within myself and trickled down to trying to help out and see what we can do to help rectify issues.”

The 2008 Cape High grad started a nonprofit in 2016 called God Given Charities as a way to help those who need a leg up. At first, she worked to help foster children who are aging out of the foster care system.

“We worked with state agencies to come up with a plan to address homelessness for those aging out of the foster care system,” she said.

From there, Gardner-Blackwell said, GGC provided residents with help on food stamp applications, Medicaid applications, and other other areas where they may need assistance.

“It’s basically working with the public. Whatever the public needs, we are there to assist,” she said.

Following two community rallies for action following Truitt-Handy’s hit-and-run death, Gardner-Blackwell shifted her group's focus to human rights.

“She was a minor; she was young and didn’t have a chance to live and grow up,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, something needs to be done so this won’t happen again.’”

Her interest in the legal field soon blossomed.

In 2020, Evans’ family contacted her for help, sending her a mound of documents from his arrest and trial. “So I got into the case, digested it. There were some loopholes that I wasn’t sure about, and the family said they were OK with me working on his behalf,” she said.

After getting all the approvals, Gardner-Blackwell set to work on getting Evans pardoned. She first contacted people at the Attorney General’s Office for information, then submitted a pardon application to the board.

Last spring, she was notified that his case would be forwarded to Carney.

She also filed a lawsuit on Evans’ behalf and is awaiting a response from district court. In the meantime, she said, she was notified that Evans will soon be let out of prison for work release.

“This month should be the last month he is in [prison],” she said. “It’s a great deal if he is exonerated.”

Now living in Baltimore, Gardner-Blackwell said she is working on getting a college degree from Morgan State University, and she is still focused on finding homes for foster children aging out of the system. So far, she said, her group has secured four properties that are ready to be renovated. “We’re working with construction companies to renovate the buildings,” she said.

By the end of 2023, she said, she hopes the properties are ready for occupancy.

And when her studies are over, Gardner-Blackwell, 32, said she’s already eyeing a career as an attorney.

“I’m learning that for some people it takes other chances for them to begin to understand what life is about,” she said. “I just can’t sit around and do one thing; I have to multitask.”

Eventually, she said, she will come back home to Sussex County and retire. 


  • The Cape Gazette staff has been doing Saltwater Portraits weekly (mostly) for more than 20 years. Reporters, on a rotating basis, prepare written and photographic portraits of a wide variety of characters peopling Delaware's Cape Region. Saltwater Portraits typically appear in the Cape Gazette's Tuesday edition as the lead story in the Cape Life section.

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