Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2018

Currently: 47° — Complete forecast

Philanthropist recalls his roots ahead of Gobble Gobble Give event in Las Vegas

The cellphone service is bad when Barry Walker, founder of Gobble Gobble Give, answers. The California wildfires burned their way to his Malibu neighborhood, where the cell reception is poor at best. But, for the first time in days, it is working.

Walker has been coordinating with others to organize and distribute basic supplies. Walker’s home survived the fires, but some of his neighbors' homes lay in a twisted, burnt pile of ash and broken foundations.

Walker knows what it means to have nothing to come back to, as 20 years ago he lived in a dilapidated house without electricity. That’s when he discovered his passion for charity.

“I had about 6 or 7 bucks in change in a cup and I decided to go buy some food for the homeless family that was outside of my window,” he recalled. “When I went to give them the food — I heated it up on a little hot plate that had an extension cord connected to the neighbors — they weren’t there.”

Determined, Walker drove around Silver Lakes, Calif., and passed out the warm food to homeless people in the area.

“Frankly, it changed my life,” Walker said. “Every year I did it, and every year more friends got involved and every year more people said, ‘Hey, I want to help’ and the first year I did it I fed 9 people and fast forward to last year, when we were in 18 cities in the states.”

The event has expanded to different cities across the nation, including Las Vegas. It went from serving a few dozen meals to 27,000 meals last year. It has 10,000 annual volunteers.

The Las Vegas event is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Las Vegas Llama Lot 152 N. 9th Street.

“I’m blessed to have this little nonprofit charity that pops up every year,” Walker said.

That’s especially true with the wildfires in California. “With all the devastation in Malibu and the many, many people living right around me who lost everything — it reminds me of why we do it, there’s always room to help people.”

Adan Van Dam, host of the group’s Las Vegas chapter, partnered with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who provides the space in downtown Las Vegas.

Van Dam said services extend beyond food, including collecting clothes for winter, hygiene kits, pet food, canned food and more. The local pop-up event is looking for volunteers to help Thursday through any means that they can, Van Dam said.

For more information, visit gobblegobblegive.org.