According to Feeding America, did you know that 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger in New Mexico? However, did you also know that Fathers Building Futures is part of the solution in getting food to those in need? Through our partnerships with Roadrunner Food Bank and Rio Grande Food Project, we are picking up and delivering food throughout the city and state, logging over 50,000 miles this past year.
Leading our team is Robert Gilbert, Freight and Delivery Supervisor. Robert, a father of 4 beautiful children, joined the Fatherhood Program within PB&J Family Services based on a referral. He had driven for a couple of businesses years before, so the Freight and Delivery program caught his attention. Through funding with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, obtained his Class “A” Commercial Driver’s License and became a staff member of Fathers Building Futures on April 29, 2015. On December 19, 2016, Robert was promoted to Freight and Delivery Supervisor. We recently spent the day on a ride along with Robert to learn about the business and what drives him to success.
Most of his week starts before the sun rises, as he drives the Feeding America association of food banks intrastate routes. The morning of our ride along started at 6am, with all the logistic and safety pre-checks then a drop off at the Santa Fe Food Depot, followed by a continued route to Los Lunas to pick up a load from the Wal-mart distribution center. Driving the Association route gives Robert the opportunity to see the state. Robert mentioned one of his favorite routes is to Clovis. While one of the longest routes, he says he’s witnessed some of the most incredible sunrises and the warehouse teams in Clovis are easy to work with and friendly.
Robert stated best thing about his role as the team’s supervisor is being able to teach or train other men how to drive and about the duties and functions of being a truck driver. There's so much more to being a driver then just driving a big truck.
“We're responsible, especially at Roadrunner Food Bank for collecting, maintaining, and delivering food that feeds nearly 70,000 families a week.”
Driving a 53’ tractor trailer is no joke. Many people think driving a large tractor trailer is easy. There are so many intricacies and you really have to know how to maneuver it, especially in tight spaces or narrow roads. It can get stressful especially when other drivers lack patience (we witnessed this as a Mercedes Benz sudan jumped the median to try to pass us as we were turning from one street to another during our ride along).
Robert's customer service and people skills shine through his interactions. He takes real interest in people and the conversations he has. It was evident on our ride along and his inquisitiveness in our conversation and in the interactions at the food depot. Most of the time he is met with sheer gratitude for what he does. Sometimes he runs into people who are judgmental of Fathers Building Futures drivers, but it really doesn’t faze him. What’s the saying, “judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”, so true! Robert shared how honored he feels by what he does. How completing long routes, maneuvering tricky paths, to get the food where it is needed provides great satisfaction and builds his self-worth. Of course, like any job, there are moments of anxiety, doubts and fears, but empowered by his faith and his skills he knows he can get through it.
“We are still people of value and what we do from now on matters more then what we did.”
Part of Fathers Building Futures leadership role is to serve as mentors to new clients coming into the program. His advice to anyone, but especially men coming out of prison, is that they don't have to be a stereotype, “we can be more then what we were”. Robert talked about having “died to his old self”, giving in to drug use and behaviors that took him away from his family and the core of who he is. While he still has to report to government and has restrictions, he doesn’t live with a criminal frame of mind, a victim mentality, or broken spirit. Inspired by his spirituality and love for his family, he has a bright outlook. So perfectly stated by Robert, “We are still people of value and what we do from now on matters more then what we did.”
As for his future, Robert mentioned when he was younger, the ability to vote wasn’t important to him. He realizes now just how important that right is, and would like to help in advocacy efforts to aid individuals with a felony record with gaining back the right to vote after they’ve served their sentence and made restitution. He’s hoping in 3 years to present the governor with a certificate verifying the completion of the sentence for the purpose of being granted a pardon by the governor in restoring his full rights of citizenship. Fathers Building Futures definitely will be supporting him in these initiatives. Another way he is forward thinking is by taking advantage of the Individual Development Account program offered through Fathers Building Futures to help him build assets for his and his family’s future.
Fathers Building Futures is grateful for our partnerships with Roadrunner Food Bank and Rio Grande Food Project, and that they see the potential of our team. Our motto is, “we want to earn your business and respect”, so if you know of other businesses that can benefit from Fathers Building Futures skilled team of drivers, please contact Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org or our Operations Manager, Joseph Shaw, at 505.341.9034.
(Photos courtesy of Kate the Photographer & sunrise photo courtesy of Robert Gilbert)