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By Tara Blake, Marketing Communications Officer
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If you live in the Bay Area, you’ve probably seen our new FOOD=LOVE outdoor awareness campaign plastered in BART stations, on MUNI buses, and on billboards throughout the city. Gary is one of those five San Franciscans featured on the ads, and has been a client at Project Open Hand for 10 years.

After receiving two diagnoses of HIV and cancer, Gary became too weak to pick up groceries and received home-delivered meals instead. Now much happier and healthier, Gary is able to not only come into Project Open Hand to pick up groceries, he also volunteers in our greenhouse twice a week! Having a green thumb for much of his life, Gary helps to plant herbs, harvest lettuce, and water microgreens, always with his dog, Gizmo by his side.

Gary, trimming plants in greenhouse

What does meals with love mean to you?

Meals with love means my lifeline back to health. I lost 30 pounds when I began AIDS drugs 10 years ago. Then, after being diagnosed with cancer one year later and going through chemo, I weighed 106 pounds. I don’t know how I would exist without those meals with love.

How is your life different now, having Project Open Hand as a resource?

It's become such a big part of my weekly routine, I don't know how I would function without it. This place has brought me back from the brink multiple times and has been my “boat to hope”. It’s helped me regain the person I once was...like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

What made you begin volunteering in the Project Open Hand greenhouse?

I began volunteering twice a week at the greenhouse to give back to Project Open Hand for all the things they have done for me. Plus, I always loved my work and never wanted to retire. It’s meant a lot to me to be expected to be somewhere and perform a task, and I’m glad I’m able to give back to the organization.

Gary, in the greenhouse

What is your spirit animal?

Otter.

What is the #1 most played song on your iTunes/phone?

Anything by Barbara Streisand. I've seen her four times. I also saw David Bowie three times. The last time I saw him was the Sound & Vision tour in Sacramento at a small outdoor venue called Cal Expo. He came out and announced the visual effects to the show weren't working that night and if people wanted their money back they could get it, but he and the band were going to play anyway. I was in the pit, very close to the stage and often David came out alone and would begin with just a Guitar. It seemed very intimate and it was one of favorite concerts EVER.

Fun Fact about Gizmo?

Oh, Gizmo. He loves to dance! And he’s kind of become a therapy dog for homeless people in the city. People recognize him now and want to pet him when we pass by.

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