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  • Project Angel Heart volunteer Bill Pearson ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Project Angel Heart volunteer Bill Pearson adding the last of six large trays of macaroni and cheese to the assembly line that will surly be filled again on the second go round of dinners that are being packed and sealed for refrigeration and delivery. The organization prepares and delivers meals to over 1,100 critically ill men, women and children in Denver and Colorado Springs. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Volunteers from the Seattle Fish Co. ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Volunteers from the Seattle Fish Co. preparing bread for meals at Project Angel Heart that will be delivered to critically ill individuals in Denver and Colorado Springs. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Volunteers turn each meal delivery bag ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Volunteers turn each meal delivery bag into a work of art for Project Angel Heart, an organization that prepares and delivers meals to the critically ill in Colorado. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Project Angel Heart production chef Joe ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Project Angel Heart production chef Joe Grubb measuring out couscous that will be the side for a baked fish dinner. The organization prepares and delivers meals to over 1,100 critically ill men, women and children in Denver and Colorado Springs. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Project Angel Heart volunteer Dennis Hamann ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Project Angel Heart volunteer Dennis Hamann loading tilapia to be baked for a nutritious dinner that will complement each individual's medical treatment plan. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • The menu board at Project Angel ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    The menu board at Project Angel Heart, an organization that prepares and delivers medical tailored meals to the critically ill in Colorado. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Jorgeann Siegrise volunteers in the kitchen ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Jorgeann Siegrise volunteers in the kitchen and at the front desk sorting meal delivery bags that are works of art unto them selves at Project Angel Heart, an organization that prepares and delivers meals to the critically ill in Colorado. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Project Angel Heart volunteer Bill Pearson ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Project Angel Heart volunteer Bill Pearson adding one of six large trays of macaroni and cheese to the assembly line on the second go round of dinners that are being packed and sealed for refrigeration and delivery. The organization prepares and delivers meals to over 1,100 critically ill men, women and children in Denver and Colorado Springs. November 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

  • Project Angel Heart 14 year veteran ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Project Angel Heart 14 year veteran volunteer Peter Quintero adding bread crumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese and chopped zucchini meals before they are sealed for refrigeration and delivery. The organization prepares and delivers meals to over 1,100 critically ill men, women and children in Denver and Colorado Springs. Nov. 8, 2017 in Denver, CO.

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Midmorning light shines through the loading-bay windows of Project Angel Heart, a food center in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood that distributes, free of charge, meals to critically ill residents in metro area and Colorado Springs.

Six volunteers chat as they package meals of meatloaf, green beans and mashed potatoes, one of five meals nutritionally tailored to meet clients’ medical needs. Meals created for a kidney-friendly diet, for example, are low in acid, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. The meals were designed by executive chef Brandon Foster, formerly of Denver’s Vesta Dipping Grill.

The volunteers banter back and forth, their mood buoyant, as they pass cardboard food trays down an informal assembly line, adding food items, sealing the trays with plastic wrap, and setting them aside to be bagged and delivered or frozen for another day.

The organization was founded in 1991 amid the throes of the AIDS epidemic to serve people who often had difficulty receiving services. In 2001, meal delivery was expanded to include anyone with a life-threatening illness, and the agency says its average present-day client is living with or battling seven or eight ailments. Today, Project Angel Heart serves about 1,200 meals a week to people living in an 800-square-mile area that stretches from metro Denver to Colorado Springs. Of the organization’s $3.5 million budget, roughly $3.1 million is spent on the meal-delivery program, according to the agency’s latest financial report.

“We like our clients to feel like these meals were made just for them,” said Erin Pulling, president and CEO of Project Angel Heart. “We believe in meals with love, with care with compassion.”

The organization achieves that end with some flourishes that ensure clients know their meals were cooked, prepared and delivered by human hands. Volunteers turn the brown-paper delivery bags into homespun works of art — one features a geometrical slash of rainbow-colored patterns, offset by a classic yellow smiley face. When a client’s birthday rolls around, the volunteers slip a piece of cake in their meal bag (diet permitting, of course).

The meals are delivered by volunteers. Project Angel Heart uses a bank of about 8,000 people, some of whom have either had a loved one affected by a life-threatening illness or experienced one themselves. Bill Bottoms, 71, who has been delivering meals since he retired in 2013, says he began volunteering to give back to the community. He had heard good things about Project Angel Heart, so he went to an orientation and signed up that night. He started off in the kitchen, but it wasn’t until he began delivering meals that everything clicked.

“You can see the genuine gratitude on people’s faces, the appreciation they have,” Bottoms said. “That’s when you know you’re making a difference in people’s lives.”

On a recent day, Bottoms delivered meals to three clients in a Westminster neighborhood, including Kirk, 75. Kirk breathes through a clear, yards-long respirator tube that snakes around his kitchen and living room. He has congestive heart failure, diabetes and other ailments. Before Project Angel Heart, he relied on his son to bring him prepackaged frozen meals and canned food such as pork and beans — options probably higher in sodium than recommended.

Kirk, like other clients, gets a delivery once a week containing five meals. He isn’t well enough to travel outside his home — a prerequisite to receive service from Project Angel Heart — and relies on the meals.

“They’ve got a good variety of food, although I add seasoning,” Kirk said of the meals. Per his physician’s recommendations, his meals are low in salt and sugar. He said he looks forward to the deliveries, a convenience that has become indispensable.

Pulling and Project Angel Heart volunteers say it’s vital to remember that the nonprofit’s clients weren’t always in need of others’ help. Kirk, for example, served in the Army from 1966 to 1970. Health issues can quickly erode a person’s financial safety net and even eliminate a means of earning a living.

Pulling, who has had friends who have received Project Angel Heart meals, said perspective is an essential aspect of the work. “Any of us,” she said, “are a diagnosis away from being in that position.”

Project Angel Heart
Address:
4950 Washington St., Denver, 80216
Year it started: 
1991
Number of employees: 34
Annual budget: $3,558,930
Percent of funds that goes directly to client services: 88 percent
Number served last year: 2,838 people

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