HOPE Week: ‘Angel in Queens’
Jorge Munoz and his family were already busy in the kitchen of their home in the Woodhaven section of Queens preparing for Tuesday night’s mission to the hungry when a quartet of Yankees players showed up to give a helping hand as part of HOPE Week.
Pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Boone Logan, second baseman Robinson Cano and center fielder Curtis Granderson signed up for KP, along with Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“I’m used to cooking Dominican food, so I can cook anything,” Cano said.
“My mom taught me to cook when I was a kid,” Logan said. “It’s the least we can do for such a cause.”
The players sliced ham to be used in the lentil soup being prepared in the small kitchen on the first floor. Another kitchen on the second floor was also in use where sausages were being cut up and grilled.
“We don’t usually use this kitchen, just the one on the first floor, but with all these people here we need to today,” Munoz said.
An idea that began as a one-night undertaking eight years ago has grown into a daily enterprise that has earned the 5-foot-2 Munoz the nickname “Angel in Queens.”
Munoz, 48, arrived in the United States with his sister, Luz, 49, from Colombia in 1986, two years after his mother, Doris, 72, came to New York to work and start a new life for the family after the death of her husband. All have since earned their U.S. citizenship and continue to work together to make life a little better for the less fortunate.
Even after being laid off from his job as a school bus driver, Jorge maintains the daily routine of making food for people each day and distributing it underneath the elevated railway tracks on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in nearby Jackson Heights where Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was to help dispense the meals Tuesday night.
In 2004, Jorge drove past a group of mostly Latino day laborers who were standing on that corner and told him that on days they cannot find work, they go hungry. Identifying with their plight, Munoz began bringing them food, beginning with eight brown-bag sandwiches that first night.
Eight years later, Jorge is responsible for feeding up to 140 people a night with meals ranging from chicken with rice to beef with pasta to pork with beans. Some neighborhood businesses contribute supplies, but the majority of cooking is done by Jorge and Luz in that 9’x6’ kitchen.
“He makes over 100 meals a day,” Granderson. “There’s enough here to keep our whole team fat.”
At the beginning of the enterprise, Munoz collected food from local restaurants that would have been thrown away otherwise. He established his own nonprofit (www.anangelinqueens.org) and has served more than 70,000 meals to New Yorkers who could not afford routinely to enjoy a hot meal. Jorge missed serving food just one night over the past seven years because of a blizzard.
“When you hand a meal to a guy who has been waiting for half an hour in anything from 10 degrees to 100 degrees and he says, ‘God bless you,’ you know you’re doing something good,” Munoz said “If all of us shared a little more then no one would go hungry each night.”