Twelve-year-old Gabriella Watson was energized and inspired to make a difference this holiday season. Recruiting her book club at Matoaca Middle School, the 14-member group held a food drive at both the East and West campus.
The collected food was delivered this week to HandsOn Greater Richmond for their Virginia Supportive Housing program; a program that helps families maintain housing, making sure they have jobs and food to eat.
“Everyone always says every little bit counts,” Watson said. “At first I didn’t believe them. However, taking part in the food drive opened my eyes and let me see even just a few cans can make a world of difference.”
Watson discovered HandsOn Greater Richmond when she was seeking volunteer opportunities for kids of all ages. When her family made a small donation and she realized they just fed a family of four, she felt she could do more with the prospect of a food drive at her school.
“I decided to do this drive to bring families together,” Watson said. “There is nothing like the warm feeling you get inside when a family joins around a table. I wanted to provide that fuzzy feeling for others. It pains me to see anyone hurting even in the slightest. I also want to relieve the stress and worry of wondering where your next meal will come from.”
Watson also wanted to bring social awareness to her classmates about how some people need help with something as basic as food. Quoting Ghandi, “If ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind’what could be the opposite?” she said, “Imagine if everyone helped feed one other family. I feel that more should and could be done to help homeless families.”
Watson, daughter of Raquel and Andrew Watson, became active for change at an early age. She has been a member of Girl Scout Troop 3709 since kindergarten. She is presently working on the Girl Scouts Silver Award and as a member of her school orchestra (a cello player) she is performing a concert for the residents at Dunlop House with a few students from orchestra.
Watson started the book club when she was in the third grade and continued with it in middle school. The book club is called G.R.O.T. which stands for Great Readers of Today and is an all-girl book club. They read a book once a month and do an activity. Watson conducts and plans every meeting, however, she said every girl puts in their own personal touch. Ms. Greene, the school librarian sponsors the book club, and Watson looks at her mom as her unpaid personal assistant.
“I wanted to bring reading to life and share my personal opinions with others,” Watson said. “The girls in the group are remarkable. They are passionate, natural leaders who are not afraid to share their opinions.”
Watson was grateful with how the food drive went. “I attend the East Campus at Matoaca Middle school. My friend Vivian [Johns], who has been part of book club from the beginning, used her artistic abilities to make boxes for both campuses,” she said. “The students at each campus did an excellent job donating canned and boxed items. We have two boxes of food. Matoaca’s mascot is the warriors, and we definitely demonstrated our Warrior Pride during this food drive.”
Watson said her friends at school feel like family and create an enjoyable environment for learning. She has a younger sister, Sophia, and said, “I see more of myself in her every day, and her natural energy rejuvenates me.” She hopes her efforts will help others to do the same. “This idea [food drive] not only aids many families but allows others to help others. I believe most of the time people want to help. They just don’t know how,” she said. “I think my friends are grateful to be part of this food drive.
The girls in GROTS are extremely active with swimming, battle of the books, band, dance, track and still find time to volunteer.”
Raquel Watson said her daughter’s calendar is busier than her own but make every way possible for to be involved in helping other people and be active in the community.
”We support Gabriella in all of her endeavors and are proud that she wanted to do something for the community,” Raquel Watson said. “As parents we want our children to move from being self centered to globally centered so the food drive fits right into our philosophy. Gabriella has done volunteering activities with her Girl Scout Troop over the years, but as she gets older she’s beginning to branch out more so we see her doing bigger and greater things.”