Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Different Kind of Need

Below is a reflection written by a past CSM New York trip participant...

Although all the places at which we helped on our recent mission trip to NYC were inspirational, I think my favorite was the one we did on our last day. It is called “God’s Love We Deliver.”

GLWD was formed in the mid-1980’s at the height of the AIDS crisis. A woman named Ganga Stone took groceries to a friend with AIDS who had just been released from the hospital. A few days later she visited again, and found he had not had the strength to prepare the food. So she started to deliver prepared meals. One day her pastor encountered her on the street making a delivery and asked what she was doing. She explained. He said, “You are not just delivering meals; you are delivering God’s love.” The name stuck, and over the years their mission has expanded to serve anyone with a serious or terminal illness who is unable to prepare his or her own meals. There is no means test or waiting list. About 3200 personalized meals are delivered in person by a volunteer each weekday.

Unlike the other places we served, this one was clearly well-funded, with a dedicated headquarters building in lower Manhattan. GLWD receives a lot of corporate support, both monetary and volunteers, and is a favorite of the entertainment industry. Joan Rivers just donated her $750,000 prize for winning “Celebrity Apprentice” to GLWD. Grateful clients who can afford to do so also support this mission. After our orientation (and nice refreshments) in their air-conditioned building, our group was split and my group set out on the subway for our deliveries, which turned out, surprisingly, to be on the upper west side, one of Manhattan’s most exclusive neighborhoods. We assembled the meal bags and got our marching orders at a Catholic church “substation” uptown. The food had been delivered by van earlier.

We had only six meals to deliver – but they were widely scattered over many blocks and it took us several hours. Most of the meals were delivered to health aides, but by luck of the draw, I got the last and best client meeting. This was in an absolutely gorgeous apartment hotel on 79th near West Park.

Our leader Jessica and I made the delivery, to the top floor. There was our client, Irene, standing alone in the hallway to meet us. She was elderly and frail and had no teeth, but was nicely dressed, could walk unaided, and was absolutely delighted to see and talk to us. She wanted to know all about each of us and shared that she was an RN, had lived in Newark among other places, and had worked in summer stock in Connecticut. She now has scleroderma, which is progressively affecting her ability to breathe. She gave us each a big hug. I believe our visit was more precious to her than the pureed food we brought. May God bless you, Irene!

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