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Remembering Jesse

When we say volunteers are an integral part of the work and volunteer family at God’s Love We Deliver, we sincerely mean it. It’s with profound sadness we share the passing of one of our beloved volunteers, Jesse Lopez.  

Jesse grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and made New York City his home at a young age over 30 years ago. Jesse immediately made volunteering at God’s Love a weekly commitment that would not allow for disruption. Jesse started volunteering at God’s Love in 1998 back when we were cooking meals in a small basement kitchen and then followed God’s Love to our temporary location in Brooklyn, and then back to our beautiful kitchen in SoHo. 

 You could find Jesse bright and early Friday mornings for the 6:30AM shift alongside Féline Lo, Ric Bolz, Doug Kurdziel, and Michaella Kurdziel. What started out as a group of strangers volunteering to help their community, developed into a strong bond of friendship that helped motivate each other to show up, even on those dark and cold winter mornings. 

 Chef Andre Daquigan and Chef Curtis Wilson deeply valued Jesse’s dedication and work ethic in the kitchen. As a seasoned volunteer, Jesse was looked at as more of a staff member who would walk in the kitchen and knew exactly what needed to be done and how to do it. “He was one of those special volunteers that would help in any way he could”. Chef Andre recalled; “He really was the spirit of that shift. You knew it was Friday. You knew it was the end of the week when you came in and saw Jesse.”  

Féline remembers Jesse “running around getting everything ready, cleaning, part of the kitchen staff, rather than a volunteer”, as she laughed back at the time, he was working so hard he split his pants open causing an eruption of laughter through the kitchen.” Féline recently honored Jesse by getting a matching tattoo of “Love” with a heart, to match Jesse’s exact tattoo as a way to always remember him and in processing her grief. 

Ric reflected back on meeting Jesse on his first day at God’s Love 15 years ago saying; “Jesse will never know how much he helped me come out of my shell after years of being in an abusive relationship which left me with PTSD. We never spoke of it but he knew bits and pieces; we all got to know each other’s lives during those little conversations while labeling soup or peeling potatoes and a very special time for us.” 

Michaella recounted the first time she met Jesse, “his butterfly tattoos were the first thing I ever noticed about him. At first, they seemed like such a juxtaposition to his personality—why would someone with such a big, bright personality pick such a gentle, delicate creature? But the more I got to know him, the more I understood just how beautiful his soul was and those butterflies were every bit a part of who he was too”. “Jesse loved all things love – family, friends, romance, strangers, weird things, funny things, overlooked things, funny things, bright and dark things”. 

As an artist, Jesse saw the beauty everywhere and in everything. “It feels obvious to say that about someone whose profession was artist, but it ran so much deeper than that. The way he observed tiny details about things that might look plain or ordinary to someone else”, says Michaella. Féline shared pieces of Jesse’s art where he would sit for hours in Central Park or museums, drawing nature, finding beauty in everything, tree roots, little leaves, butterflies, etc.  

“Jesse was a big joyous presence in the kitchen – a big smile, a big laugh, big stories, big hugs. He lit up the Friday morning shift and became a treasured friend over years. Whenever we saw Jesse, we left with a deep appreciation that God’s Love brought him into our lives” said Doug and Michaella. Jesse also showered their son with laughs and joy and sent them notes and texts, that would always light up their day.  

Jesse’s friends describe him as the life of the party, an exceptional and special person, free-spirited, sassy, adventurous, a knowledgeable and talented artist with an eye for nature’s the beauty, powerfully positive, an acerbic sense of humor, not a mean bone in his body, proudly Iron Man’s Robert Downy Jr’s doppelganger, always finding the camera, “the glue” of the group, an amazing friend that rallied everyone together to show up for the early morning volunteer shift, or spontaneously to an event to check out Joan Rivers’ outfit, and lead the crew dancing down 5th Avenue for the Pride Parade. A treasured friend they will forever miss and always remember. 

Jesse embodied the true meaning of what it means to make friends your chosen family and home. He often invited friends over to cook dinner and host parties, rally everyone to go to events. Jesse rarely missed a gathering at “Captain” Curtis’ house, trekking out to Queens to celebrate Curtis’ son’s birthdays and for his favorite jerk chicken. (Check out Chef Curtis’ recipe here, Jesse knows you’ll love it!) 

 We believe that “Food is Love” here at God’s Love We Deliver, and Jesse’s bright energy spread through the kitchen and certainly into the food for clients’ meals. God’s Love was Jesse’s “home, happy place, and family”, says Féline 

While Friday mornings will never be the same without Jesse, his shift is honoring his memory by purchasing a kitchen tile, in his honor. We invite you to join in and participate in our “Tiles for Love” campaign, with all proceeds going directly to God’s Love We Deliver. Jesse’s tile will become a permanent part of his home, his family, and his happy place in the God’s Love kitchen. Please make a gift to Jesse’s Tile for Love here