/ Community

Desiree Gruber shares her story on World AIDS Day

Desiree Gruber joined our Board of Directors in 2001, and she has been a part of the God’s Love We Deliver family for more than two decades. Today on #WorldAIDSDay she shares her story.

Dear Friends,

I’ve spent my career helping other people tell their stories, but have struggled with how best to tell one of my own, one of the hardest to talk about. Until now. I want to tell you about my older brother Jeff, who I lost to AIDS.

Jeff was diagnosed in 1988. I was 20 years old, and it was terrifying. For me, for my family, and most of all, for Jeff. Our country didn’t fully understand this new virus, so the news cycles were full of fear, uncertainty, and misinformation of all kinds. Kind of like today.

I remember the intensity of visiting Jeff in the hospital – everyone in full PPE, nurses and doctors afraid they’d contract the virus with every move they made, no one understanding how AIDS was even transmitted, and the sheer terror of being on the front lines – for patients and essential workers alike.

So many people only saw the virus, but I only ever saw Jeff.

He died a few months after his diagnosis, right before I graduated from college and moved to New York City. His life was over as mine was just beginning, and I felt myself carrying the weight of that wherever I went. But I had learned something important from my mother and her intense dedication to the value of service. It was this: the best way to work through grief is to give back.

I was in my first job when I heard about God’s Love We Deliver, and immediately got involved. From the moment I walked into the building on Spring Street, I knew it was a special place. AIDS was the darkest of dark clouds, but inside GLWD there was so much joy and laughter. Everyone there – from office and kitchen staff to drivers and volunteers – was connected, and people really knew each other.

I first worked in the kitchen and was so moved by what went into the planning and preparation of all those meals. As Founder Ganga Stone knew, healthy and good tasting food is essential to the well-being of someone who is ill, and I was so impressed by the dedication and patience with which the cooks taught us exactly the right size to dice a carrot and how to put the meal together in a way that would make it look great when a client opened it.

Once I started there, I wanted to do much more, so I began using my professional skills to tell the story of God’s Love and to help others understand the role this first-of-its-kind service was playing in the community.

I tapped my network to introduce as many people as I could to this amazing organization. I brought friends, colleagues and clients to join me in the kitchen or to be my guest at events, and when I met my husband, Kyle, in 1999, one of our early dates was a GLWD event. I’ve enjoyed hosting volunteer days for my company, and some of our best team bonding moments have happened while wearing hairnets and crying in the onion line. And I was especially proud when God’s Love asked me to join their Board in January 2001.

What I respect the most about God’s Love is its ability to innovate while still staying so true to its original mission. What started as meal delivery for those suffering from AIDS and HIV-related illnesses today serves a wide range of clients with an even wider array of health issues that prevent them from making nutritious meals for themselves and their families. For this organization, food is love. Clients are not names on a list or a delivery schedule, they are individuals and friends. A birthday is acknowledged with a cake, holidays are recognized with specially decorated bags. And if you’ve ever had one of Chuck the Baker’s famous brownies, you know just how much love is inside (and why they make one of the absolute best gifts).

I often say that God’s Love provides “help with heart.” On 9/11, we brought food to fire stations; when COVID-19 arrived, we provided extra reassurance to clients in compromised health situations. We simply never stop helping and never stop caring. And as this most challenging year comes to an end, God’s Love needs your help and your heart to continue providing nutritious, life-sustaining meals for close to 10,000 clients, children and caregivers.

If you made a gift to God’s Love recently, thank you so much. If you have not, please consider making a donation to help GLWD bring food, reassurance and love – needed more than ever at this time of year.

One of my personal heroes is Muhammed Ali who said: “Service is the rent you pay for your time on earth.” I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been given abundant time – time that Jeff didn’t get – so that’s why I choose to spend mine in service of others. I hope you will too. 

Thank you.

Desiree Gruber
Board Member

Related Blog Posts

+ View all community posts