Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge couple feels God’s Love through food

November 20, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Victoria and Santiago of Bay Ridge look forward to the visit from the God’s Love We Deliver volunteer five days a week. Photo courtesy of God’s Love We Deliver
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God’s Love We Deliver, the nonprofit organization founded in 1985 with the goal of bringing tasty, nutritious meals to the homes of AIDS sufferers, cancer patients and others coping with life-threatening illnesses, marked a major milestone this year.

The organization delivered its 20 millionth meal in 2017. The group brings meals to more than 7,000 clients in the five boroughs, Westchester, Nassau County and New Jersey – free of charge. Twenty percent of the clients live in Brooklyn.

“Every single one of those meals is important,” Karen Pearl, president and CEO of God’s Love We Deliver, told the Brooklyn Eagle in an interview.

The meals are prepared specifically for each client with the client’s medical needs topping the list when it comes to menu preparation, according to Pearl, who said a nutritionist works closely with the executive chef to plan each dish.

One client is an 80-year-old man named Santiago who lives with his wife Victoria, 75, in Bay Ridge. Victoria, a retired teacher, has been the chief caregiver for Santiago ever since he was diagnosed with dementia nearly 20 years ago. Santiago is a retired draftsman.

Victoria agreed to be interviewed, but did not want her last name published.

Thanks to God’s Love We Deliver, Santiago, who is non-verbal, receives lunch and dinner five days a week. The meals are pureed to enable him to swallow the food more easily.

Victoria loves to sing the praises of God’s Love We Deliver.

“I do have to thank them very much,” she told the Eagle. “It is very helpful. I love it so much. It’s very convenient for me.”

Because of God’s Love We Deliver, Victoria no longer has to fret in the grocery store what to buy for her husband to eat.

“I’m lucky. I have God’s blessing,” Victoria said.

The meals brought to their Bay Ridge home have helped to improve Santiago’s health, according to Victoria, who said her husband no longer needs medication for high cholesterol. “No more high cholesterol medication for him. The doctor asked me, ‘What are you feeding him?’” she said, adding that the doctor was impressed wit Santiago’s progress.

Victoria told the Eagle that she feels that God’s Love We Deliver is helping her keep her husband alive.

Santiago was a hospice patient but had to be discharged from the program for the terminally ill because he kept outliving each six-month evaluation period. “He was in hospice. He was their longest patient. After three years, they had to discharge him,” Victoria said.

When Santiago was diagnosed with dementia in 1998, he had worked for many years as a draftsman. “He was laid off from his job, not knowing he had this disease,” Victoria said. In his native Philippines, he had been a mechanical engineer.

“When he was diagnosed, I did not know about this disease,” his wife said.

Victoria conducted research on her own and found support group for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on the Internet. She got in touch with the Alzheimer’s Association, which recommended God’s Love We Deliver to her. “I was happy because I had no help before,” she said.

Victoria said she was impressed by the fact that when she signed Santiago up for God’s Love We Deliver, she was interviewed by both a dietician and a nutritionist about his dietary needs.

Victoria and Santiago have been married for 54 years. They have two sons and a daughter. They have eight grandchildren.

They have lived in Bay Ridge since 1974. They moved to Bay Ridge from Fort Greene. Both husband and wife are originally from the Philippines.

She loves God’s Love We Deliver so much that she has recommended the organization to a friend who has cancer. “They are helpful and convenient,” she said.

Pearl said she felt fantastic upon hearing the news of Victoria’s experiences with God’s Love We Deliver.

“It’s why we’re here,” she said. “Our mission is to make their lives better by improving the quality of their meals.”

When a client signs up, “a full assessment is done,” Pearl said. That means going over their medical needs as well as their dietary needs.

“Our aim is to provide them with the least restrictive meal and with as much variety as possible. We make sure they do not get what they do not need. All of our meals are low sodium. And we offer well balanced meals,” Pearl said.  “Every meal is tailored for the person getting the meal.”

One of the important aspects of God’s Love We Deliver is the close teamwork that takes place between the organization’s nutritionists and the executive chef and the chefs. “Every meal gets planned jointly,” Pearl said.

The meal “looks beautiful and smells delicious,” Pearl said.

Another important component is the legion of volunteers. “We have 10,000 volunteers a year. They don’t prepare the meals. But they help to plate and pack them. Some of them go out in our vans to deliver meals,” Pearl said. “Our goal is to show love, care and compassion. For many of our clients, the only person they see during the day is the person delivering the meal.”

The organization is also cognizant of the role of the caregiver, Pearl said. “Caregivers often feel tired and isolated,” she said.

Gold’s Love We Deliver has many volunteers signed up for the holiday season, according to Pearl. But anyone wishing to sign on to help out at other times of the year can visit the organization’s website at www.glwd.org and be put on a waiting list.

There is no waiting list for clients. Once a client’s food needs are evaluated, the deliveries begin immediately.

 


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