Gilbert, a 64-year-old retired Vietnam veteran, is giving back his time and energy to Loaves & Fishes as a volunteer after spending years counting on the free meal himself.
“Up until about 10 years ago I spent time homeless on and off,” said Gilbert. “Loaves & Fishes was one of the places I used to frequent. The meals made a difference for me because I knew I could always count on a dinner at 5 p.m. every night.”
Gilbert struggled with addiction problems throughout his life, but is now sober and rebuilding who he wants to be. He has been proud to watch seven of his children graduate high school with one son in the marines and one daughter who just graduated from college.
“It means a lot to watch them succeed,” said Gilbert. “I’m proud that my issues didn’t impact them.”
Gilbert’s eighth child is his 2-year-old son who he is motivated to teach about giving back.
“I want to teach my son that it’s ok to give back and that’s how you show gratitude for the blessings you get,” said Gilbert.
After spending an evening helping at the Holy Rosary community meal site, Gilbert signed up right away for another shift and plans to be a regular volunteer.
“I make amends for some of the things I have done in my life simply by giving back,” explained Gilbert. “I have been where some of the guests that I see come through are.”
For Gilbert, he knows he can make a difference for those guests by simply caring.
“People having societal issues and going through rock bottom give up and think people don’t care,” said Gilbert. “Places like Loaves & Fishes give people a sense of, ‘Ok, somebody cares.’”