Project Angel Heart usually does the giving -- but last week it received the Cherry Creek Chamber of Commerce's non-profit of the year award for 2010. "They wanted to highlight an organization that has contributed to the community, so we were grateful to receive the award and that recognition," says LaKeasha Smith of Project Angel Heart.
The organization got its start eighteen years ago, through founder Charles Robbins's own volunteer work. "We started in 1991," Smith explains. "Our founder returned to Denver and saw people he knew wasting away from illness, so he decided to start a program here molded after a project he'd volunteered for in L.A. called Project Angel Food."
At first, Robbins asked local restaurants for donations, and distributing the food through a group of friends who volunteered their time. "Our first meals came from a pan of donated lasagna from Racines restaurant, and we delivered it to our first twelve clients," says Smith.
From those small beginnings, Project Angel Heart has grown into a 1,687-client operation, covering 750 square miles in Denver alone. "We just recently served our three millionth meal and we are very excited," Smith notes. "We want to serve many more."
And to many more clients, all of whom are fighting life-threatening illnesses.
Linda, for example, "Linda is battling breast cancer," Smith says. "She found out she had the disease in 2007 and through treatments, she lost a tremendous amount of weight; she was just under a hundred pounds. She started receiving meals and she gained her weight back." For clients like Linda "battling chronic illness, food is not something they should worry about," Smith says.
While Project Angel Heart is grateful for the Cherry Creek chamber's recognition, they hope the award will pay off in other ways."There are still so many people in the Denver metro area who don't know about what we do," says Smith. "I think for us this brings more awareness about our mission. We always need volunteers and we just want to make sure we keep providing meals to people who need them for as long as they need them."
To held fund that mission, Project Angel Heart hosts Dining Out for Life, a major fundraiser slated for April 29 this year. "It's a dining event at 300 restaurants where people go out and 25 percent of their bill goes to Project Angel Heart," says Smith.
To get involved, go to www.projectangelheart.org.