With a few days off before I start my new job I wanted to get out of my usual routine at Gods Love We Deliver (I chop vegetables in the kitchen every Monday night) and help deliver meals to clients directly through GLWD’s van assisting program. So I quickly contacted Stephen, the volunteer services specialist, and minutes later I was all set up with a day and time (Tuesday at 7:45am) to come in and van assist for the day!
For the past four years (since culinary school) I have been working with Gods Love, an organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. Yet it wasn’t until a year ago that I really made the commitment to step up my game and work a weekly shift.
To say that my life has been changed since that day I decided to pledge my Monday nights to GLWD is an understatement; I would like to think that I am helping them but really they are helping me. I really cannot imagine my life without Susan, Emily, Kate, Stephen, Karen, Nick, Andrew, Gerry, Sophia, Adam and so many others who whether they are employed by GLWD or not dedicate their time to working with this absolutely fabulous organization that I am so proud to be a part of.
I had been wanting to van assist for a while but because it is a Monday-Friday day shift, I could not find a time to fit this in with my busy work schedule. So with a day off, I jumped right in! There are so many ways to get involved at GLWD but van assisting is by far their most needed shift. Volunteers are paired up with a staff driver and help make meal deliveries to GLWD clients. Because they deliver to all 5 boroughs and some parts of New Jersey, it is also a great opportunity to see more of this city. In addition, van assisting allows you to interact directly with the clients which delighted me to no end (who doesn’t want to see the direct result of their volunteer work?). Depending on traffic and the delivery route you are given, I was also told to keep in mind that my return back to God’s Love headquarters (6th and Spring) could be anywhere between 1:00pm and 4:00pm.
So I breezed through the doors, was given a quick orientation into the position and what I should expect or know and sent on my way with Henry, one of the staff drivers. We hopped into the large van and when I asked where we were headed that day I was told the Bedford Stuyvesant/Crown Heights area in Brooklyn was our destination for the day. I spent a hot minute in BedStuy a few weeks prior when I ate at Peaches Hot House but I was really excited to see two neighborhoods that has a few misconceptions or preconcieved notions surrounding it.
Henry and I got on like a house on fire almost immediately; he was very engaging, eager to chat and “shoot the shit,” and tell me more about him and the clients he has come to know so well. Van drivers usually have the same route so they have formed great bonds and rapport with the clients as they see them, learn about their needs and wants, and try to help get them what they need (the meals). We snaked through streets I had never heard of Henry knowing exactly where to go, with us packing bags full of food that catered to their individual nutritional needs. Henry has been working on this route and at GLWD for close to two years and knew exactly what each client preferred when receiving meals which was handing the meal directly to them at their door. It is one thing to chop vegetables every Monday night but it is quite another to spend a minute or two handing a meal to someone who is counting on that meal everyday. I walked away from each hand-over overcome with emotion from seeing the direct result of my few hours a week I spend at GLWD.
*A beautifully manicured street deep in the heart of BedStuy*
As the back of the van slowly emptied out with all of the deliveries we were making (we had 51 that day), I was really sad to see this day end. They couldn’t have paired me with a better partner; Henry was so much fun to work with. Ya, it was a sort of long day (we were out from 8-3 and did not stop save for a much-needed bathroom break I had to have at a White Castle in Crown Heights) but it went by so fast as Henry and I formed a little “love” team with me doing my best to help him organize and deliver the meal to the client. It is people like Henry who keep my faith in the kindness and selflessness of others alive; he is a person I will never forget (and hope to see again soon at the volunteer party and the GLWD potluck I am hosting next month). Thanks to Stephen for setting me up with this opportunity and to Henry for his kindness, generosity, and patience. I am going to do everything I can to work in every volunteer opportunity available at GLWD; two down… many more to go!
*Henry and I after our delivery date*
For more information on God’s Love We Deliver and how you too can get involved with van assisting or a variety of other volunteer opportunities please visit www.glwd.org