Project Angel Heart is nearing a major milestone, and it's doing so with new talent on board. On Monday, February 22, the nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing and delivering medically tailored meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses expects to serve its eight-millionth meal; this year also marks Project Angel Heart's thirtieth anniversary.
From 2005 to 2016, Jon Emanuel was the executive chef for the program, overseeing the menu design and production of food created for people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease and other illnesses. In 2016, Brandon Foster took over the culinary program; he passed away on July 5 while hiking in Summit County.
Project Angel Heart took its time finding a new executive chef, casting a wide net beyond metro Denver. Last month the organization made the decision, selecting Brett Newman to fill the role. Newman moved to Denver from St. Louis, Missouri, where he was executive chef for the Washington University School of Medicine. He also was recently executive chef at the Bon Appétit Management Company at the University of Chicago; among his accomplishments was utilizing local and seasonal ingredients in large production kitchens, something that should be a good fit in Colorado.
Project Angel Heart also hired a new vice president of development; Tera Prim joins the organization from the National Sports Center for the Disabled, bringing 24 years of nonprofit experience with her.
Here's what Newman and Prim say about joining Project Angel Heart:
Westword: What does working for Project Angel Heart mean for you both professionally and personally?
Brett Newman: Professionally, this is the greatest move of my career! I always wanted to do more than just cook food. This gives me the opportunity not only to be around food, but to use it as a healing tool to help nurture my community. Personally, this really hits home. I lost my mother at a young age to liver failure, and I remember the only thing that gave her satisfaction before she passed was something comforting like a warm, substantial soup or a stew.
Tera Prim: Project Angel Heart is so well known in our community, and I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this incredibly successful team. I know how critical healthy food can be, not just for the body but also for the mind and the soul. Food feeds us on so many levels. Often a medical diagnosis can have mental consequences, as well, such as depression — and making sure our clients have healthy meals to help buoy their spirits and ensure their nutritional needs are met is an incredible feeling. I told someone recently that working here actually “fills my soul.”
What's your favorite part of your new job so far?
Newman: The staff is amazing. I’m truly excited about coming to work every day, because not only do I get to work with an amazing group of people, but everyone is focused on the Project Angel Heart mission.
Prim: Being around the staff has been amazing. I have been able to help in the kitchen and do some meal deliveries, and they are truly heartwarming experiences. During a two-hour delivery window, I cried, laughed and learned a new “air handshake.” People are grateful for these weekly meals, and it is not only a reminder of how blessed I am, but also how really wonderful humans are. That was a valuable affirmation for me at a time when the world can seem so ugly; I am reassured by the good souls out there. While working in the kitchen with the volunteers, I made so many new friends right away…it’s like being here is just a big hug!
What's been the biggest surprise about Project Angel Heart since you started?
Newman: I am so impressed by the volunteers and the commitment they demonstrate day in and day out. We are preparing and packaging thousands of meals every week, and this would not be possible without them. Project Angel Heart simply would not operate at the level it does without each and every one of these volunteers.
Prim: The serious determination, from staff and volunteers. It’s everywhere! Project Angel Heart is considered an “essential business,” and this organization is determined to ensure that clients receive their meals each week. We have a significant fundraising goal, and the fundraising team is committed to making sure those dollars are raised so that the rest of the organization — client services, the kitchen, nutrition team, volunteer resources — can function effectively. And let’s not forget the volunteers who continue coming to help prepare and deliver thousands of meals each week. We can’t do this without them, and I am humbled by their selfless determination.
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