Beef lasagna and broccoli: That was the four-millionth meal that Project Angel Heart served earlier this week to one of its clients. All of those clients are battling life-threatening illnesses, and all rely on Project Angel Heart, a local nonprofit that cooks nutritious meals to feed 850 people per day, every day, at no cost to the recipients.
And there's a reason that Project Angel Heart's four-millionth meal was lasagna. "That was the first meal that we ever served," notes Jon Emanuel, the nonprofit's executive chef. "In 1991, when Project Angel Heart first started, Racines donated a sheet pan of lasagna for twelve people, and ever since then, we've served lasagna for big celebrations and milestones."
Emanuel, who's been with Project Angel Heart for several years, is one of the city's most inspiring chefs, a man who devotes the majority of his time to men, women and children who wouldn't have access to healthy meals were it not for him and his staff. "He's simply a bad-ass chef, and one of the most incredible human beings we have in Denver. All of the chefs in Denver should feel a little more humble just knowing him," says Bob Blair, the owner/chef of Fuel Cafe. "He goes about his business without fanfare, and he does it with amazing grace and skill."
And while four million meals is a major milestone, Emanual says that the demand for more meals is rising. "At the moment, we make, and serve, meals for about 850 people per day, but that's climbing, and we rely on volunteers and donations to ensure that we can continue to do what we do -- to make sure that people battling life-threatening illnesses have access to meals made with healthy ingredients."
In early January, Project Angel Heart will relocate to a sixty-year-old, 30,000-square-foot building at 4950 Washington Street, a facility that will eventually enable the organization to accommodate up to 3,500 people per day. "We have a grill -- something that we never had here," notes Emanuel. "Efficiency will go way up, and we'll have the ability to serve hundreds more meals to people who really need them to sustain their quality of life."
But the new building isn't free. "People have been incredibly generous with their donations to support our Food for Life capital campaign, but we're still $300,000 short of our goal, and when we serve our first meal in the new facility, we'd really love to be clear of debt," says Emanuel, adding that there are multitudes of volunteer opportunities.
If you'd like to donate to Project Angel Heart's Food for Life capital campaign, there are several ways to do so, including making a cash pledge, purchasing tickets for upcoming fundraisers, or buying personalized tiles for a mosaic that will be part of the new building.
"Four million meals is a lot, and given the number of people who continue to need our assistance, we'll be serving our five-millionth meal next year, so we definitely need any help people can offer," stresses Emanuel.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.