Gabby’s first encounter with The Open Door was when she met our Executive Director, Jason Viana, working as a barista at Caribou. “Jason walked into Caribou and we started talking. Once he saw my ‘Hablo Espanol’ button he asked if I spoke Spanish.” Gabby not only speaks Spanish, but she is also a Master’s in Social Work student, interested in food, food insecurity, looking at food deserts, racial inequality and other social justice issues. Jason left his business card with Gabby and let her know she should check us out if she would like an internship. Immediately after that, Gabby looked up The Open Door and a week later started her job as the Operations Assistant.
Before starting at TOD Gabby admits she had a very limited experience with a food shelf like The Open Door. “We always would do food drives in my school, then with canned goods. My idea of food shelves was kind of centered around canned goods, non-perishable stuff. I was honestly shocked that there are food shelves who specialized in fresh foods.”
Gabby refers to herself as a “jack of all trades” and COVID-spurred changes have solidified that notion. Originally hired to support all operations, her job quickly shifted to exclusively supporting the Eagan Pantry as the need for TOD’s services grew. Since then, she’s been focusing more on TOD’s accessibility. “Pretty much immediately after COVID my role really transformed to be about a quarter to a half of translating, which is something I’m really thankful for. It’s really important to being able to connect with the Latinx community in a way that I hadn’t been able to since being out of college.”
Gabby’s passion is working to make TOD more accessible for everyone. “I’ve been working on a lot of ways to make our pantry more accessible to people who speak other languages, for people who are hard of hearing, or have other disabilities.” She finds it important to not only give our clients food but help them utilize the foods provided through sharing recipes, tips on making food last and different ways to use certain foods.
Since the beginning of COVID, Gabby said she has been surprised by the “inherent goodness of people” she sees on a day-to-day basis. But what has really changed in her mind is the importance of food. “Seeing the need instead of reading about it in a textbook. So many clients have said getting food from The Open Door, allows me to pay my rent, pay bills, allow my kid to go to on field trips or buy a computer so they can do Virtual Learning.”.
Gabby’s favorite thing about TOD is “my coworkers, and our volunteers. Everyone is super hard working, like, almost pathologically and everyone has their whole heart in it.” That is what she says makes The Open Door so unique during the pandemic. “I feel like outside of here, everyone is grumpy, and the world isn’t quite so kind but here is a really safe place to be. Even on the hardest days here when we’re really struggling, talking with our volunteers always makes my day.” She fondly remembers her favorite TOD moment being a day spent at Mobile with a comical number of bananas and it becoming an inside joke among staff there.
Gabby loves all things food and says it’s a tie between paella and mustard as her favorite food. When she isn’t in school, Gabby likes to play with her pets and loves to cook – using mustard judiciously of course. Above all her favorite thing is being able to connect with someone over a cup of coffee.
The Open Door is grateful for Gabby’s flexibility and willingness to jump into anything. She pushes staff and volunteers to be their best selves every day. We are thrilled she is a part of the team!