Diocesan News

For 10 Years, Nonprofit ‘Grandma’s Love Inc.’ Has Helped Sustain the Needy

Assistant Tina Alvarez (left) board chairperson Jane Parmel (center) and founder Theresa Monforte-Caraballo say the strong teamwork in Grandma’s Love is one of the reasons the organization can successfully fulfill its mission.

BAY RIDGE — When Theresa Monforte-Caraballo was packing a school lunch for her grandson Joshua one day many years ago, she was surprised when he asked her to make two sandwiches instead of one. She complied with the request and made it a habit to double up on his lunch every day.

She soon found out that Joshua didn’t want two sandwiches because he had a big appetite. It turned out that he was giving half of his lunch to a classmate who didn’t have anything to eat.

Touched by her grandson’s generous heart and eager to do more, Monforte-Caraballo, got a small group of friends together, started filling backpacks with nonperishable food items like rice, beans, cereal, and pasta and personally brought them to a couple of local schools once a week for principals to distribute to children from families in need. 

She used backpacks so that children receiving food could easily blend in with their classmates who came to school with backpacks and didn’t need food donations. “We didn’t want to embarrass the children who needed help. If every child has a backpack, then you don’t stand out,” she explained.

Monforte-Caraballo, who has five grandchildren, called her group Grandma’s Love, “because no one can get it done like a grandma.” 

From one or two schools, Grandma’s Love expanded and before long, was delivering backpacks to several schools.

In early 2015, Monforte-Caraballo obtained 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service to operate as a nonprofit organization. Students at Brooklyn Law School who had heard about what she was doing volunteered to write the application for her.

Grandma’s Love Inc. is now entering its 10th year of service and Monforte-Caraballo is looking back with pride and gratitude — while at the same time marveling at the group’s growth. “It has been an amazing time, that’s for sure,” she said. 

Grandma’s Love founder Theresa Monforte-Caraballo (left) says the shopping bags of food she, assistant Tina Alvarez (center) and board chairperson Jane Parmel are loading into the organization’s car were donated by people attending a recent concert in Williamsburg. The audience was asked to bring nonperishable food items to the show. (Photos: Paula Katinas)

Jane Parmel, chairperson of the board of directors, has watched the growth. “I cannot believe the amount of work that I’ve seen and heard and watched with my own eyes of all that Theresa has been able to accomplish with the organization,” she said.

Monforte-Caraballo estimated that Grandma’s Love, Inc., has provided 5,000 bags of groceries to families since 2015. The group currently works with nearly a dozen schools in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Coney Island, Cypress Hills, and Harlem. The food deliveries now include fresh vegetables along with the nonperishables.

The costs are high. Monforte-Caraballo said the organization spends between $800 and $1,300 a week on food.

Grandma’s Love, Inc., gets its funding through grants and donations. The organization also works on projects with other nonprofits, like Bay Ridge Cares and the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park.

While Grandma’s Love Inc. is a nonsectarian organization, Monforte-Caraballo, who was raised Catholic, said she remembers learning about the Corporal Works of Mercy as a child and how they left an impression on her. 

Monforte-Caraballo said that to this day, she strives to live up to them. “We’re certainly feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. And in our own way, we’re clothing them and comforting them,” she added. 

Tina Alvarez, an assistant at Grandma’s Love, Inc., said it makes her feel good to know she is helping others. 

“It’s really a wonderful feeling to know that you’re helping families and children. And it’s a weight lifted from a mom that knows that she’s going to be able to eat as well as her children. Oftentimes, moms go without so their children can have,” she said.

In addition to providing food, Grandma’s Love has also purchased beds and provided clothing for families in need. And, since 2021, it has purchased and installed book vending machines in pediatric cancer units in hospitals. There are seven vending machines already in operation and an eighth one is in the planning stages.

“We’re about the whole child. We want to nourish the mind as well as the stomach,” Monforte-Caraballo explained.

However, with growth come changes and there have been quite a few at Grandma’s Love, Inc. For example, gone are the backpacks. Monforte-Caraballo and her volunteers still do the shopping but they no longer pack and hand-deliver the food.

The organization now works with businesses like Driscoll Foods and Stop & Shop on its distribution program. Monforte-Caraballo and her volunteers purchase the food items in bulk and Driscoll Foods and Stop & Shop arrange for the items to be brought to schools.

“We have to do it this way,” she said, explaining that the need has grown so much that it’s too much for a small group of volunteers to handle. “Packing 75 bags is one thing, but packing hundreds of them is something else,” she added.

Still, some things never change, like Monforte-Caraballo’s desire to help children. “We feed them, we clothe them and we comfort them. And we will continue to do that,” she said.