“In the work we do every day,
we let our clients know they matter.”

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Tom O’Leary Retires

Categories: Blogs, Uncategorized

Dear Supporter,

I believe the heart of Project Angel Food is our Client Services department. We are the entry point. The drawbridge. We receive the paperwork or the urgent phone call that gets the ball rolling. We ask the nosy questions that our funders require.

Tom O’Leary speaking to a client

But the real work we do in Client Services, and the real work our drivers do, is we bear witness. We listen. We hear firsthand about the setbacks the clients are going through. And sometimes the triumphs. The happy calls that say, “My T-cells are up,” “I’ve gained weight,” or “The chemo is working, I can stop using your service.”

We also get the calls saying Ted or Ramona or Julio or Francisco passed on last week or last night. Or the call that Helen’s Alzheimer’s is too severe and she can no longer live alone.

I know there are many more people struggling to put food on the table and worrying about the future of their health care. Would you help us feed and nourish them?

We live in a city that manufactures dreams. A city that creates stories for the whole world to see. Invisible to the world, and to most Angelenos, are the untold numbers of men and women and even children who are homebound and often feel hopeless because of disease.

After volunteering for two years and working in Client Services for 17 years, it is time to leave. As I leave this work, I realize my heart is absolutely full.

  • My heart is full because of client Wanda Marie, who said to me, “Honey, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and died a month later.
  • My heart is full because of Viola, who was 102 and loved to tell me about her childhood when she sat between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard at San Simeon.
  • My heart is full because of Gladys B., who couldn’t shake a cold for a year and finally went to a doctor and found out she had full-blown AIDS. Her boyfriend of eight years had never been honest about who he was. Gladys kept saying, “I feel like I wasted eight years. Eight years. All wasted.”
  • My heart is full because of Liza B., who came on service three times because the breast cancer kept returning and knocking her down again and again. But she is well and thriving today.
  • My heart is full because of John G., who spoke at our Angel Awards in 2005, and who has never failed to send me and other staff a card for every holiday. He even remembered my birthday when my family forgot.

My heart is full because of the hundreds upon hundreds of ghosts I carry with me. I know these ghosts, these angels, are looking down on us today with love.

In the work we do every single day, we let our clients know they matter. They may not be able to read or write, but they matter. They may not be able to walk across a room, but they matter. They may live on $500 a month, but they matter. They may be meaner than a junkyard dog (and some are), but they matter.

As of January, requests for meals have increased significantly. To meet this need, we need YOUR help. With a donation to Project Angel Food, 85 cents of every dollar goes directly toward our meal preparation and delivery program. $5 provides one meal and $35 provides a week of meals.

My heart is full because I know I will be missed. I know I did my job well. It wore me down at times and pissed me off, but I did my job well.

I listened. All of the untold angels on the other end of the phone knew I was listening. I consoled. I cheered. I lifted. I gave witness to hurting clients who were forgotten by their families, their parents, their children, their city and their government. I did not forget. I will not forget. My heart and my soul will remember.

As I leave this work, I encourage you to remember that Project Angel Food is not a building. It’s not a website. It’s not a logo. It’s not a mission statement. It is people. People in desperate need, who have had the courage to ask for help.

Please—I urge you—donate to Project Angel Food. Your support would allow our most vulnerable neighbors to receive the greatest gift of all: food and love. With a donation, you can help Project Angel Food feed more than 1,400 residents per day in Los Angeles County living with life-threatening illnesses.

My wish is that when you think about Project Angel Food, as I do, your heart too is full and overflowing. At its core, this organization is about love and hope.

Thank you Project Angel Food clients, donors, volunteers and staff for your compassion, generosity and love. You are in my heart forever.

Tom O’Leary
Client Services Manger (2001-2019)

P.S. Your generosity will make a huge difference for someone in desperate need of our services. Please donate today!