By David Ludwigson, Vice President & Chief Development Officer
God’s Love We Deliver began in 1985 at the height of the AIDS pandemic. What began with one woman, Ganga Stone, delivering one meal to a man dying of AIDS has grown to an organization of thousands of people cooking and home-delivering more than 2.3 million meals a year to New Yorkers living with severe and chronic illness. So much has changed in these 35 years, but the core values of God’s Love We Deliver have not. Every day our clients struggle with malnutrition, illness, hunger and isolation; and, every day more and more people reach out to us for help. When they contact God’s Love they find a community that cares about them deeply.
Early in our history, almost all of our clients diagnosed with AIDS passed away. God’s Love provided meals and comfort for them for days, weeks or months, whatever they needed. Their futures were short, their needs urgent, their gratitude and that of their loved ones profound. As their lives and needs have changed we have become increasingly focused on nutrition, and deliver the tailored meals our clients need to manage their illness and become as healthy as they can. Good nutrition can lower health care costs, improve health outcomes, and greatly improve clients’ outlook and quality of life. Food is medicine, and for so many who are living alone, food is love.
Every day we witness great strides in the health and well-being of our clients. Sometimes people start on our program close to death, but with proper medical and nutritional care they become strong enough to no longer need our services.
In our earliest days, God’s Love found a great deal of support from the fashion, design, LGBTQ, and theater communities, as these were communities that were greatly affected by the illness. So many wanted to help. We are grateful for the continued support we get from them, as well as from a broad range of other industries and communities, all united in the effort to ensure that our neighbors who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves can get the right nutrition they need, delivered with a smile.
This is a very busy time at God’s Love. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our phones are ringing off the hook. In fact, daily meal production has increased more than 25 percent during the past five months and is continuing to grow.
Our challenges today are similar to what they were in the beginning: that we reach all those who need us, that we innovate to meet our clients’ continually changing needs, and continue to meet growing demand.
Our team works to advance public policy that supports access to food and nutrition services for people in need.
How does one sign up for the service?
Clients get in touch with us through our website or through referrals by healthcare professionals.
Are they required to prove need?
Clients must be too sick to shop or cook for themselves, and they must have a healthcare professional confirm this, but there is no financial need-based requirement.
Do you need volunteers and what might they be doing?
We are able to cook and home-deliver 10,000 meals each weekday because of the help of thousands of volunteers (17,000 last year), and yes, we always need help! To help cook, pack, and deliver meals, volunteers can sign up on our website.
What is happening differently because of the virus?
We have instituted social distancing measures across all our operations, and we have also streamlined our menu so that our kitchen can operate with fewer people. All of our meal deliveries are made from a social distance. Our drivers call our clients to let them know they are on the way; when they arrive, they put down the meal, ring the bell, and then step six feet away to confirm the delivery and say hello from a safe distance.
What are the future plans?
With demand growing unabated, we will be searching for additional office and production space in the near future.
How big an organization are you in staff, budget and persons served?
115 staff, 17,000 volunteers, $22 million annual budget, 2.3 million meals/9,400 people served annually
Is the founder still alive?
Our Founder, Ganga Stone, is still alive and lives in upstate New York.
Have you won any awards?
The New York Times Award for Management Excellence. God’s Love was chosen as a winner of the Social Determinants of Health Innovation Award in the Community-Based Organization category. We have received the top 4-star recognition from Charity Navigator for seven years running (joining the top six percent of the nation’s charities). We are regularly called on as a model community-based organization by New York State.
Can you name some of your major donors?
Michael Kors, Aerin Lauder, Steve and Alexandra Cohen, Ariana Rockefeller, Neil Patrick Harris, and David Burtka
How many people are you serving today?
10,000 meals every weekday! This year we served 9,454 clients.
What are typical profiles of recipients?
We have an extremely diverse community of clients throughout the NYC metro-area. All are sick and living with a life-altering illness. Many of our clients live at or below the federal poverty line.
Are seniors now the principal recipients?
Although we have no age restrictions and our clients’ ages range from 18-104, 70 percent are 60 or older. We also send meals for our clients’ children who are minors or senior caregivers.