On Monday, May 3, Project Angel Food reinstated our kitchen volunteer program for the first time in 13 months, after suspending the program on April 1, 2020 to enact strict COVID safety protocols. Pre-COVID, over 4,700 volunteers dedicated over 42,000 hours per year, doing about 80% of the meal preparation. Then, we were feeding 1,500 people per day; today, we feed over 2,300.
Throughout the year of COVID, a streamlined team of trained chefs from top Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills restaurants filled the void. Now, three at a time, volunteers are able to work side-by-side with these culinary wizards.
“Volunteers are the heart of Project Angel Food; so to be able to welcome them back in the kitchen is a momentous occasion,” says Richard Ayoub, Executive Director of Project Angel Food.
There are still rigorous COVID safety protocols in place.
Only three volunteers at a time are allowed in the kitchen per shift. There is a morning shift and an afternoon shift. After three weeks, Project Angel Food operations will evaluate and possibly expand to five volunteers per shift.
“Having volunteers back in our kitchen brings back incredible memories and hopes for life returning to a normal that we’ve all been waiting for through this past year,” adds Vesna Fartek, Senior Manager of Community Engagement. “The smiles that we know are under the masks of both volunteers and staff add a brightness to our day.”
The first three volunteers back in the kitchen were Nancy Owens, Nancy Tankel, and Carmen Rico. They began the morning with a re-orientation in which Chef John Gordon led a moment of silence remembering those we’ve lost over the past year.
Tankel, a retired nurse and culinary school graduate says, “Being back in the kitchen feels like the day I got my vaccine. It’s that exciting!”
Owens says, “We so missed being here. We love everybody. We love what Project Angel Food is doing.
Rico, a four-year volunteer says she had so much fun in the kitchen, it had become part of her life, “Monday is my day it’s worth it. “Volunteers are part of our DNA. It’s great they are returning. Today we have three and we’ll keep growing until we’re back to pre-pandemic involvement.”
Aside from the kitchen, there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities.
Deliveries. We love our drivers! Delivery routes take approximately two hours to complete. Drivers use their own cars to deliver a week’s worth of meals to8-10 clients. We ask for a commitment of at least three times in a two-month period.
Office Volunteers and Special Projects. Opportunities range from helping with Birthday Bags, packing cookie boxes, sending wellness cards to clients, thank you notes to donors, making bracelets, etc. Volunteers must be vaccinated, and days and times depend on project needs.
The Everest Foundation Telephone Angels. During the pandemic we discovered that our clients felt more isolated and alone than ever. We pair volunteers with clients for on-going “check in” calls to mitigate the loneliness. Telephone Angels need to make a one-year commitment, go through training, and commit to regular calls with their Telephone Angel buddy/buddies. As volunteers for this program will attest, the return is well worth the effort.
One day of volunteering can make a world of difference to our most vulnerable neighbors. Learn more about Project Angel Food’s volunteer program.