In the darkest hours, the human spirit has the opportunity to shine the brightest.
I recognize that now, one year after the world came to a crashing halt due to COVID-19.I remember what it felt like this day, one year ago. Volunteer groups were pulling out of helping prepare and deliver meals; clients were calling, terrified that our life-sustaining medically tailored meal service would suddenly end; our usually buoyant staff was shaken.
In that moment, that single day, that dark hour, Project Angel Food had a choice - we could bend to fear or we could lead with love. We chose love.
We were born for this moment.
We realized if we didn’t figure it out -- and quickly, thousands of men, women, and children who were the most vulnerable to COVID could die. Many were isolated, alone and afraid. At that time, I delivered meals to clients in Downtown LA and noticed two things: they were surprised we even showed up because of the unknowns of the pandemic. Secondly, they all asked, “Will you be back next week?” My answer was simple: “Yes. And the week after and the week after and always.”
Hundreds of people wanted to volunteer in the kitchen, but it was no longer safe to have them here. For the first time in 31 years, Project Angel Food put a pause on the volunteer program.
We hired out of work restaurant chefs and kitchen gig workers to fill the void, we instituted rigorous protocols which included distancing, masking, daily temperature checks, onsite testing, and, finally, beginning in January, vaccinations. We had to rise to the challenge to meet the need because the need was so great. Every surge in COVID, has brought a surge of demand for service. We went from feeding 1,500 people per day to 2,300, and from providing 600,000 meals per year to over one million. We added clients to our roster when other organizations asked for help, or stepped in to support at risk seniors, or members of the LGBTQ+ community, and even delivered to hundreds who were quarantined with the virus.
We kept our clients and our staff as safe as humanly possible as we made it our mantra that no client would ever miss a meal. Not only did we never miss a meal with the help of volunteer drivers; we also provided three weeks of shelf stable meals, PPE, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other essentials to our clients as well.
Being on the front lines of COVID relief and being deemed an essential service by the Mayor’s office, did not make us immune to loss. After nine months of having zero cases of COVID in our staff, with the surge at the end of the year, some of our team members did fight the virus, and one even lost his life. These were dark moments of heartbreak and loss that we were able to overcome focusing on our mission to serve.
In closing, I just want to thank you for your support. A year ago, we leapt into action immediately. We knew what had to be done, we had no idea how we were going to pay for it. You, our beautiful Project Angel Food Community, came through for us. You made the difference this year.
With deepest appreciation and humility,