As a freshman, Umberto Rosi loaded up leftovers from Einstein Bros. Bagels one January night and headed for Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. There he handed out bagels to homeless strangers. Today, 2022 graduate Rosi is CEO of The Give Back Community, a nonprofit that has provided more than 10,000 free meals to the homeless. But to Rosi and the 500-plus volunteers who have helped, the homeless are no longer strangers. They are friends.
“Your job today is not just to give away the food,” Rosi tells new volunteers. “It’s to establish relationships and spread love and show these people that we care about them. Because not many people do.”
Rosi came to PBA from Italy, recruited to play tennis. “It was hard in the beginning,” he said. “My English was terrible. But the people here are very nice. They care about you, and you feel it right away.”
He and his friend Andrew Beckwith founded The Give Back Community. They secured donations of food from local restaurants, and recruited PBA students and others to go out and serve the homeless every Friday night. That consistency, going each week, is key, Rosi said, because it takes time to build trust and relationships with the homeless.
“What I learned from PBA is that you need to make it about God,” Rosi said. “You need to make it about love to establish a community.”
The organization expressed God’s love using more than free food. Give Back has provided 4,500 pieces of clothing and sleeping bags, and found jobs for at least 12 people. By involving the Community Health Center of West Palm Beach and PBA’s Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy, the outreach includes medical care as well.
Dr. Catherine Harrington, recently retired professor from the Gregory School, sits on Rosi’s board of advisors. “Umberto is pretty amazing” with his gentle leadership, team building and consistency, she said. As she goes out helping pharmacy students in this mission, she sees how the experience helps the students grow. “We want them not to turn their heads away when a homeless person wanders into their pharmacy, but to show compassion, being the hands of Christ.”
Rosi is a business major, and has learned much from business mentors, including PBA Trustee Karl Watson Jr. and Dr. John P. Hayes, director of the Titus Center for Franchising, another Give Back board member. “It’s incredible,” grabbing coffee with mentors and learning about fundraising and about one’s relationship with God and business, Rosi said. “Something great about PBA is the people who are always available to develop relationships with students.”
The Give Back Community has grown to serve the homeless in five locations: Clematis Street, Currie Park and Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach; Lake Worth; and most recently, Santa Monica, California (where Rosi has a number of friends); and Lake Worth, Florida. In June Rosi began working as a salaried employee, with plans to work full-time, expanding the awareness about homelessness and producing more results, “because we’ve proven that the program works.”
“Debbie” a homeless person who shares her story at thegivebackcommunity.org, points to the persistence of Rosi and volunteers as the reason for the program’s success. “They keep coming every week,” she said, “and they’ve helped so many people recover. I love them. They’re my family.”
Photo 1: Umberto Rosi, CEO of The Give Back Community, is hugged by one of his homeless friends.
Photo 2: Umberto Rosi poses for a photo on PBA’s campus. Rosi is founder and CEO of The Give Back Community, which has helped find jobs for at least 12 people.