Giving is in Gabrielle’s nature.
The first thing she’s eager to share are words. She’s outgoing and friendly, speaking with her hands as much as her voice. Her gestures carry you along as she talks about her life over the last few years: the swirl of a hand indicates a house from which she has since moved; a playful wave brushes off a younger brother’s antics. The words “the pandemic” are accompanied by a wrist flick that snaps her hand backwards – something she, like everyone else, is eager to put in the past.
Gabrielle is also generous with her time. A huge, dimpled smile spreads across her face when Team Impact, the program she volunteers for, is brought up in conversation. And if you ask her what, specifically, she likes about it…
“Everything,” Gabrielle gushes. “I get to be a part of helping and serving other people, and that really makes me happy – like, seeing other people’s smiles on their faces. I really like doing all that stuff!”
She says this all in a rush, words almost crashing together in the current of enthusiasm. Both hands are needed to convey this message, opening wide, palms up – a gesture of giving, or perhaps the question who wouldn’t want to see people happy?
Teen Impact is one of the programs offered at the Buffalo Dream Center in New York, a community partner of Feed the Children. Gabrielle and her two younger siblings initially heard about the Dream Center when they were invited to join its Kidz Club summer program by a local pastor. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, Gabrielle and her family began volunteering.
In addition to Teen Impact, Gabrielle volunteers for the same Kidz Club program she once attended. There, she helps oversee games, plays with the younger kids, and passes out snacks. This part in particular is important to her. She knows that many of the kids who attend these programs are from food-insecure homes and rely on food pantries or government assistance programs for groceries. A snack of chips or a piece of candy – maybe even a name-brand variety – is a huge treat.
She can relate to them. In the past, Gabrielle’s family also received items from the Dream Center.
“We’ve gotten school supplies and groceries when we didn’t have the money to buy groceries,” she explains. Her hand is flat and still on the back of the couch. But then she smiles. “I’m really thankful for them. When I’m going through a rough time, they always pray with me, and encourage me, and I don’t feel like I’m lonely. They’ll pray with me, talk with me, and it makes me feel really good.”
Her hand comes up to her chest, resting for just a moment over her heart.