God’s Love We Deliver Says Thank You

By Johnny “Boardwalk” BurkeOn Saturday, July 14, the beautiful bayfront home of Matthew Krauthamer and Maxwell Deyo became the site of the annual Fire Island Gratitude Event that God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD) throws to say “thank you” for over 33 years of support from the Pines and Cherry Grove communities. With the invaluable help of Pines doyenne Doreen Katen, the afternoon was a triumph, thanks to the generous donors and volunteers from this past year and welcoming new friends into the GLWD family.GLWD was originally founded in 1985 by a hospice volunteer named Ganga Stone, who realized that one of her clients (seriously compromised by his AIDS infection) couldn’t prepare the groceries she dropped off for him each day. She resolved to deliver pre-cooked and portioned meals that could be popped into a microwave or heated up quickly on the stove in a saucepan. Ganga conferred with her good friend and eventual co-founder Jane Best and other volunteers in similar circumstances, and God’s Love was born. With all the new attention and fundraising going on in the 1980s around the AIDS crisis, God’s Love We Deliver approached the personal, in-the-home, food-on-the-table priorities head-on. Scientific research, medical protocols, and new experimental treatments were all well and good, but patients were literally starving in their own apartments. During these dark days Ganga and her gang of bicycle riding angels began helping to bolster the severely compromised immune systems of scores of early recipients with nutritious meals delivered … with love.I spoke with Stephen Covello who started as a volunteer and has now been the manager of Corporate Partnerships for seven years.“After several address changes in the early years, God’s Love moved into our current building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, which was overhauled and equipped by music mogul David Geffen in 1993. It served our needs for a good 20 years, but the growing demands of the community required some serious rethinking. GLWD celebrated the serving of our 1 millionth meal in 1995, but by 1997, we had served our 2 millionth meal, and in 2013, and the serving of our 15 millionth meal, the board realized it was time for a general reconfiguration of our headquarters. There wasn’t enough space to accomplish everything we needed to.”With the generous support of many corporate sponsors, and society celebrities like Anna Wintour, Joan Rivers, Blaine Trump, Harry Slatkin, and most especially Michael Kors, the two story building was transformed into a seven story showplace of light, efficiency, and technological marvels including a 10,000 square foot, 21st century kitchen on the sunny second floor where visiting guests can watch the actual preparation of all the meals behind wrap around glass-walls. Covello boasted proudly about every part of the new building: the gorgeous kitchen in which over thousands of volunteers work each year, the public spaces and meeting rooms for special events, and even the fully landscaped roof garden where fundraising parties are held and herbs and vegetables are raised for the meals.We spoke with Karen Pearl, president and CEO for 12 years now of GLWD, and she had much to say about the charity’s evolution.“I had so many friends back at the height of the AIDS crisis who were being neglected as far as their nutritional needs were concerned until GLWD came along. But our original menus were focused mostly on the basics for them as a group. Then as the antiretrovirals around 2001 began to help HIV positive folks to live better and longer, we expanded our mission. In 1986, GLWD was delivering about 2,500 meals a year, and now in 2018 we serve approximately 1.5 million meals, that now include clients with over 200 different diagnoses. We’re applying nutritional breakthroughs to breast cancer survivors on chemo, homebound elderly folks with chronic debilitating illnesses, and children battling leukemia. We’re very proud to have expanded our reach and our horizons.”The justifiable pride that the GLWD members and volunteers take in their mission and the lives they have changed remains a great reason to celebrate here on Fire Island. And the warmth and joy was shared by all on that sunny afternoon in a beautiful setting. Many, many thanks to all!