The year was 1989 and the AIDS epidemic began to hit pandemonium levels. Many of us lived in fear as our best friends died in front of our eyes while still others were turning positive daily. Community leaders mobilized to fight the war against HIV/AIDS.
One such organization was Project Angel Food. Founded by Marianne Williamson and the Center for Living, the program would offer meals to those with life threatening illnesses. In 1990, the Center for Living meals program moved into its first kitchen at the United Methodist Church and began to deliver meals to clients who were too sick to leave their homes. The need was so great that the organization opted to focus only on its patients with HIV/AIDS. Fundraising evolved with the launch of Divine Design. Featuring over 50 showrooms and local manufacturers, including my own YMLA brand, we raised over $1 million to support the demand for meals for those in need.
Over the years I spent many a Thanksgiving or Christmas starting the day with a route in honor of Frank and Chuck, and the best of our other friends living with HIV. It wasn’t always smiles. One stop still brings tears to my eyes — =a man on Hollywood Boulevard. “Knock, knock,” a faint voice answered, “who’s there?” ” Thanksgiving from Project Angel Food.” As I waited, the door cracked open a notch and a frail hand extended, the deep red sores of karposis sarcoma in sight. The man muttered “Thank you but I hope to die today.” I stood there stunned. I’m not even sure what I replied — something like “is there anything I can do for you?” Back at my car my head hit the steering wheel bawling. I’m still bawling right this second thinking of how much we lost, and how much we found, how lucky I am, and how lucky we all are.
And yes the days of HIV/AIDS have become manageable but there is a great need for meals for those with life threatening illnesses that Project Angel Food still serves. Project Angel Food’s clients are the sickest of the sick, often older and alone with little human interaction. There is no monetary requirement, but 75% of the Project Angel Food clients fall below the poverty line.
Today’s Project Angel Food is located at 922 Vine St. with a staff of 33 people includiing cooks, chefs, drivers, nutrition experts and about 3,300 volunteers annually. Eighty-two percent of every dollar goes to meals for those in need. They offer 23 different meal plans depending on the life-threatening illness and the client needs. Today Project Angel Food serves people from Antelope Valley to Long Beach, Santa Monica to Pomona — people with HIV, cancer, kidney disease and others who can’t cook their own meals. Project Angel Food is a beautiful success story that started with the AIDS crisis but now is a gift to all of Los Angeles.
Project Angel Food collaborates with every HIV/AIDS and hunger charity in L.A. County. Significant contributions come from Paramount, Warner Brothers, the Annenberg Foundation and George Michael and of course the City of West Hollywood, whose heart is bigger than its borders with an annual donation of $50,000 to offset costs of serving those living within our borders. Wells Fargo gave $500,000 to fund the new kitchen, which increases the capacity to 3,000 meals per day. The Deborah Irmas Family Foundation donated meals this Thanksgiving.
There is room to grow as current resources allow for about 1,200 meals per day to be served to clients in need. So forget my Christmas present and make a donation online to angelfood.org. For more information contact interim executive director Richard Ayoub at email@example.com