In My Own Words
By Gabi Rotham, Hand Up Youth Food Pantry
Gabriela (Gabi) Rothman has been volunteering with Hand Up Youth Food Pantry since the program began in 2007. She is in 11th grade at the San Diego Jewish Academy. She enjoys playing volleyball in her spare time, watching "Grey’s Anatomy" and spending time at the beach.
Hand Up began as one of those things that my older brother did, so I wanted to do it too. I didn’t really know what Hand Up’s aim was or even why I was invited to participate. I was just there, mimicking everything my brother was doing. He carried cans into the pantry, packed bags in an assembly line, and set out boxes of food at distributions. I did those things too.
My brother is three years older than me so when I reached the end of 9th grade, he was about to graduate. By this time, I had become a little bit more familiar with the people at Hand Up. Then, my participation in Hand Up was not because of my brother but it became something I would do with my brother. When he departed for college, I could feel his absence at Hand Up meetings and distributions.
I continued with my commitment to Hand Up by participating at monthly Camp Pendleton distributions. As my brother couldn’t come anymore, I asked my mom to join me. I began to focus my interactions with the children of the military families. I always managed the kids craft table while the parents selected their groceries. Since I attend on a monthly basis, I started to see a few familiar faces but in particular, a pale girl with caramel-colored hair. She always made creative projects with her favorite color, pink. As she started recognizing me, we developed a routine. She would always sneak behind me, cover my eyes and ask “Guess Who?” Pretty soon, she was sitting on my lap until it was time to leave. After a couple months, she began getting less shy. At one particular Camp Pendleton distribution, she pressed my eyes extra tight as she asked “Guess Who?” As she sat on my lap, she asked me about my life and which crafts I liked best. Her mom approached and motioned it was time to leave. She stepped down from my lap and held my hand. She looked at me with twinkling eyes and asked a question that I will never forget: “Will you be my best friend?”
Hand Up began as something I was doing because of someone else. That’s how it continues. The new “someone else” is now my new best friend.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry like Gabi, contact Volunteer Engagement at (858) 637-3050 or email@example.com.