October 5, 2016.
Gabrielle Pederson, also known as Gabby, has been an integral part of the HOPE House volunteer team, mainly in the HOPE Stylin’ clothing market. A tall, statuesque woman always sporting a kind smile and her beautifully detailed tiger tattoo, Gabby has had a tremendous impact on the HOPE House community. Always willing to sit down and listen to the clients, she believes that sometimes being heard is all a person may need to feel like they are a part of a caring community. Like many of HOPE House’s clients, Gabby has overcome some tremendous obstacles, especially as a young girl.
“I didn’t dream. When I was born, my biological mother gave me immediately to my grandmother and my grandmother was really abusive in all ways. It was many years of a lot of pain and fear, and hiding in closets. Then when I was 11 my grandmother was angry with me…because at the time I thought she was my mom…and she told me that actually, my mother who I thought was my sister, was my mom. Right? So it was a huge trauma for me on top of everything else. It wasn’t a good childhood. At 13, my grandmother O.D. [overdosed] and I found her. So I didn’t have any dreams…the one thing I never had was dreams.”
Gabby’s childhood was riddled with abuse and uncertainty as she moved from one school to the next, 23 to be exact – from Los Angeles, Fresno, Detroit, El Paso and even Hawaii. It wasn’t until she was 11 that she finally moved to Guelph to live with an uncle. Although Gabby was unable to establish a sense of community as a young girl, her face lit up when speaking about her idea of community and how HOPE House has fulfilled this:
“Community to me looks like everybody helping everybody. Taking their blinders off and seeing what life should really be about…which is sharing our food, sharing our clothes, sharing you know… the good and the bad, right? I just believe that if there is more people involved that it would make things a lot easier especially for those who don’t have enough money and have to use different places like HOPE House every month.”
The first time Gabby visited HOPE House, she had just moved to Guelph from northern Ontario and was living on her own for the first time. With hesitancy, she walked through the front doors and up the steps towards reception where she was greeted with a big smile. Once providing identification, she shopped for food for her and her children. “I went into the grocery area and it was just incredible. I was able to shop and pick what I needed, not what I was told. Just the vibe that was all around me was so positive and made me feel…just like that, I felt that I belonged at HOPE, which is very rare for me.”
For Gabby, HOPE House truly feels like a second home where she can share and relate to other community members who may be struggling month-to-month with mental health issues, abuse, or addiction. Through her own traumatic experiences, not only has she been resilient, but she has developed an immense empathy towards humanity – this empathy is what motivates her to make people smile and to give back in the community. Although she admits to struggling with the feelings of grief from a loss childhood, finding God has allowed her to relinquish control over her past: “For me, I believe that I needed something higher…a higher power, something to believe in more than myself. Because I just don’t believe you can do it on your own.”
This comfort found in faith and community has allowed Gabby to dream again. She dreams to become a missionary, to go to other countries and help those in need. I believe that Gabby’s desire to pursue humanitarian work locally and abroad stems from her deeply caring nature. Any person who has the privilege of meeting Gabby will not only feel loved, but they will feel heard. This is why HOPE House will keep her a little while longer…