When I slipped through the back door of the Auburn Food Bank, I received a friendly greeting from Karen. I told her who I was and that I was there to interview Jubal. I noticed she smiled at the mention of his name, so I asked her why. She smiled again and said, “He’s that kind of guy. You’ll see when you meet him.”
RSVP volunteer Jubal Gabel is a 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award winner. To receive his award he traveled to the Executive Mansion in Olympia, toured the mansion, met with the governor, and listened to the governor “encourage others to look for opportunities that not only provide valuable experience but also help strengthen our communities and state.” As an added bonus, Jubal and his fellow recipients received a special on-field tribute at the Seattle Mariners Salute to Volunteers Night. Asked how he liked the tribute, Jubal, a Mariners fan, mildly complained that he had to wear a suit. Mariners lost.
Spend five minutes with Jubal and you begin to understand what ‘that kind of guy’ is and why everyone is so drawn to him. He has an aura of unguarded openness, honesty, and sincerity augmented with a subtle sense of humor.
Tuesday is Jubal’s regular day at the food bank, but other days he is on call. His 10-hour Tuesday workday begins at 6:30 am when Tim, his buddy and the driver, jump into their 24’ truck and make their regular rounds of local food bank suppliers to pick up meat, bread and pastries. To do the work, Jubal operates an electric pallet jack. His advice to anyone using a pallet jack: “Don’t get in a hurry.” Done unloading by 9:30 am, Jubal and Tim remain on call for additional pick-ups and to help out wherever help is needed. “There’s always something to do,” he says with customary modesty.
Jubal enjoys working at the food bank and has no plans to stop. He began his career in 2007 to fulfill a community service commitment and has been there ever since. I asked him why he volunteers, and, he said with a sly smile, “It’s better than sitting around the house doing nothing.” Then, he added more seriously, “I enjoy working with good people and helping people who need help.”
Jubal is reluctant to talk about himself, but others aren’t. The Auburn Food Bank’s Executive Director Debra Christian says, “[Jubal’s] the hardest worker we have … he’s trained in all aspects of the food bank … he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have a bad thing to say about anybody.” And, Tim adds with a smile of appreciation, “He’s a good guy who can talk with anyone.”
Born in Ellensburg, Jubal’s family moved to south Seattle when he was 7 or 8. His father farmed and his mother worked at Sunny Jim’s peanut butter factory. With farm chores both before and after school, there was no time for volunteering.
His parents still live on a farm in the area and he visits them with regularity to “help out” and to ride his horse – he’s been riding for 50 years. Jubal also has a son and two grandchildren in the area, as well as a sister. By his reckoning, his coworkers at the food bank count as family, too.
Jubal lives alone in a well-situated studio apartment where he can walk to everything he needs. He cooks his own meals, watches reruns of The Waltons on TV, rides his mountain bike, follows the Mariners and Seahawks, and takes a half hour walk around the neighborhood after breakfast and dinner.
He recently rented a storage unit because, he shyly admits, he’s a hoarder. “You never know when you might need something,” he says, with a slightly guilty smile.
Congratulations to Jubal on his well-deserved award!