Earning my wings

The menu read: “Roast Pork Loin with French Herbs, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.  Louisiana-style baked Fish with Zucchini.  Roasted Chicken with Pumpkin Gravy, Rice and Poulette sauce.”  I must be inside one of Denver’s newest white table cloth restaurant, right?

In the heart of Denver’s historic and industrial Globeville neighborhood lives a team of angels that whips up nutritious and comforting meals for Colorado residents living with life-threatening illness. Within the walls of an old meat-packing plant turned state-of-the-art institutional kitchen, an army of chefs, staff, and volunteers known as Project Angel Heart make miracles happen weekly.

Founded in 1991, Project Angel Heart is like Clarence Odbody: a kind, guardian angel, who watches over our Front Range neighbors to ensure they have wholesome meals delivered to their doorstep.

This week, I swapped my chef’s toque for a flat cap, grabbed my car keys and headed to 4950 Washington Avenue to lend some wheels. In the entry of the refurbished building, oversized spoons with donors’ names flanked the wall of antique wooden Royal Crest Dairy crates. 

The culinary crew happily wiped down stainless steel tilt skillets that recently held gallons of mashed potatoes. The pristine kitchen had a peaceful and quiet hum, the energy reminiscent of a tuckered-out toddler being put to bed.

Heading to the loading dock, I filled my car with bags of tasty frozen meals – a week’s worth per recipient.  Contact list and guidelines in hand, I hit the road. Within an hour I had completed my route. 

What struck me was these folks in need, pleasant and appreciative, didn’t live “somewhere over there.”  They are indeed our neighbors.  During orientation, I was trained not to say Get well soon! or Feel better!  These seemingly innocuous salutations were discouraged because Project Angel Heart’s clientele is not likely to make those cheery expressions a reality.

Want to spread your charitable wings this holiday season?  Here are two ways to pitch in:

  1.  Starting at midnight today, it’s “Colorado Gives Day”, a 24-hour period of encouraging philanthropy across the state.  With 113 non-profit organizations to support, including Project Angel Heart, you can find a worthy cause that speaks to you.
  2.  Getting out your wallet is an important first step to support Project Angel Heart, but what really keeps this organization’s heart beating is their volunteers.  If you’d like to roll up your sleeves to whisk some sauce, pack some bags, or deliver a few meals to their 1,000+ recipients, new volunteer orientation is Saturday Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.

My experience with Project Angel Heart reminded this chef of the critical role food plays in everyone’s’ lives.  It’s more than just fuel or nutrition.  It’s community.  It’s hope.  With every doorbell I rang, I felt a little bit closer to earning my wings. 

Photos by Gabe Vigil of Real Time Moments Photography