In Memoriam: James Taylor

This week, the Coalition lost an important member of our family, James Taylor. James was an integral part of our Grand Central Food Program team for over 15 years, as one of our part-time drivers – though his presence felt like it had a full-time feel to it because of his incredible commitment and the pivotal role he played.

Everyone who knew James undoubtedly remembers his deep and gravelly voice, his perpetual smile, and his kind heart. As GCFP Director Juan De La Cruz can tell you, our part-time driver roles are not always easy to fill due to the hours and demands of the job – but James was a rock year after year. He was not a particularly big man, but he could lift 80+ pound crates of hearty GCFP stew with the best of them! James was always a familiar face enthusiastically greeting volunteers, and he regularly managed the long line of hungry men and women coming for a meal with efficiency and warmth.

“James had this incredible ability to meet people where they were, regardless of circumstance.” –Megan Lange, CFH Child Advocate and former Jesuit Volunteer

For most of his time with us, James had another full-time job at a social services organization, but he stayed with GCFP because he knew how much its work mattered to the people it reached. He was always a big believer in GCFP’s mission that the vans must go out, no matter what. On the night that Hurricane Sandy hit, almost no one could make it to St. Bart’s to make sure that the hungry and homeless men and women who rely on us were given food — but lo and behold, there was James, as dependable as always. That evening, Juan, James, and one other driver braved the dangerous superstorm in three vans, even though the city had issued a warning against driving and no other cars were on the streets. James refused to abandon the people who needed help the most.

“James knew that there was a great deal he could not control and didn’t know how to fix, but he could make sure that people got fed, on time and every day.” -Paul Fitzgerald, Eviction Prevention Case Manager and former GCFP Program Assistant

It is no exaggeration to say that James was beloved by GCFP clients and volunteers alike. When he retired just last year his absence was immediately felt, but as he wrote in his resignation letter, “I thank you for all the support and I have truly enjoyed being part of this wonderful program. I will continue volunteering if that will be possible.” And volunteer he did – right up until he took ill just last month.

Dedicated Coalition staff and GCFP volunteers were often by his bedside over the past few weeks after learning that James was not well, hoping for a full recovery at first and then just to be with him when it was clear that he was going to be taken from us far too soon.

“James saw clients as people, as peers, rather than clients.” -Juan De La Cruz, GCFP Director

We will miss James greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.