Angel Food East History

AFEribbonSince 1992 a wonderful community feeding ministry for people living with HIV+ and AIDS has been operating out of the kitchen at St. John’s. In 2013 we expanded to include people who are homebound with other chronic illnesses. Most of you know all about it. However, we have newcomers and visitors who are new to our community that may wonder what this program is all about. This article is for them.

Angel Food East was created in to meet the needs of our neighbors living in the midst of the AIDS pandemic. It was a time of confusion, fear and misinformation about AIDS and the people who contracted the disease. There were few services available for men, women and children living with AIDS and no local dedicated feeding program that addressed their special dietary needs.

Three community members, one a former parishioner at St. John’s, inquired about using our kitchen to begin a free hot meal delivery program. With the support of the vestry, the creation of a board of directors and not-for-profit status, AFE opened for business with just a handful of clients and a few volunteers. Financial donations from caring community members began arriving and the program began to grow. Within a few years, we were serving up to 50 meals a day and kitchen space became an issue. In 1998, a major kitchen renovation project was undertaken to address the growing number of clients served, as well as Board of Health requirements. With the support of two Episcopal Charities grants ($20,000), an United Thank Offering grant ($30,000) and a major donation from the estate of Jean Harvey, a former warden and long-time member of St. John’s, as well as many important individual donations from the community, our present kitchen and storage area was enlarged under the supervision of Terry Allred, who served as project manager.

As we celebrate our 22nd year of operation, we have many parishioners and friends of the parish to thank for their help and support over the years. Norm Goodwin has been our treasurer since the beginning. Cindy Puetz, our parish administrator, has given us many hours of secretarial support. Fr. Burns and all past rectors since 1992 have been directly involved as board members and volunteers. Joan Murray, our kitchen manager, has effectively served for over 8 years. Through the hard work of Lynn Dennison, Theresa Keegan and others, we have received many significant grants. Over the years major financial support has come from the Dyson Foundation, the Klock Foundation, the Hudson Valley AIDS Auction and Episcopal Charities. Thousands of dollars have come in from individual gifts and memorial donations. The Ulster County community has consistently and generously supported the mission of AFE. But perhaps the main reason we have been able to continue to serve our neighbors living with AIDS for 2 decades is the hundreds of volunteers who have shopped, cooked and delivered meals. These are the unsung heroes of this program.

In 2012 and 2013 we re-evaluated our program, looking to the future. We realized that there are many other people in our community who are chronically or critically ill that might benefit from a feeding program such as ours. We are excited about the possibilities of reaching out to others who are also in need. Keep us in your prayers as the program expands. Lisa Hantes is our program director and is dedicated to helping us navigate these recent changes.

Finally, please join us! We welcome all who are interested in becoming Angel Food East volunteers, no matter how much time you are able to give. Just speak to Cheryl McGahan at 331-6538 or Deacon Sue at 331-5575 and we will help you get started. It’s a wonderful way to connect to the community and to work alongside really great people.

-Deacon Sue