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For seven years Jorge Muñoz has brought hope and happiness to the needy who gather on the street corners of Queens, New York. Jorge’s humble efforts and his heroic commitment to feed his needy neighbors equally inspires those who need help and those who can help. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, Jorge Muñoz and his family feed an average of 30-40 meals a night to a growing number of people who are out of work and out of food.
His story begins in Colombia in 1964. Jorge Muñoz grew up in a humble home where he learned to share his limited food and resources with those around him. When Jorge was in his late teens, his father was killed in an accident outside the coffee factory and his mother decided to take her children with her to a job opportunity in New York. During these early years Jorge experienced the difficulties of life as an illegal immigrant.
In 1987, Jorge, his mother Doris and his sister Luz became legal citizens of the United States and he was able to land a more secure job as a school bus driver. For nearly two decades, Jorge Muñoz lived life as an average working-class American, waking up early to head off to work, coming home in the evening and enjoying the rest of his time however he wished. But one evening in 2004, Jorge decided to chat with some of the men he had watched gather under the raised train tracks in Queens. When he heard their stories, struggles of unemployment, homelessness, and tales of immigration he was moved to take action.
“When I see these guys on the street it’s like seeing me, 20 something years ago when I came to this country.” – Jorge Muñoz
Most of the men are day laborers who stand waiting for the chance to earn a bit of money for a few hours of grueling labor. They stand in the chilly rains of winter and in the blistering heat of summer for the chance to make enough money to survive in the states and support their impoverished families abroad. Often they would go days without food, that is, until Jorge decided to help them out.
Jorge began by packing about eight brown lunch bags with a piece of fruit and other food items that he would drop off after getting off work each night. Then, one afternoon while driving his bus route he noticed a local food factory was throwing away much of their leftover food each day. Jorge approached the factory and asked them if he could use the extra food to feed the needy instead. The factory agreed and Jorge began developing plans to increase his own efforts.
“What unites these citizens – what makes them special – is the determination they share to find a wrong and right it; to see a need and meet it; to recognize when others are suffering and take it upon themselves to make a difference,” – President Obama when talking about Jorge and other community heroes.
Already working a 12 hour day, Jorge sought the help of Doris and Luz to prepare the meals. Together, the three bought an industrial freezer to cram into their living room (their kitchen isn’t large enough), and began coordinating their schedules to prepare hot food each night.
As the economy plummeted in 2008, many more people lost their jobs and houses and began seeking out a meal from Jorge and his family. Jorge only knows some by name, because most come and go as they find jobs. But they all know that Jorge will be there, rain or shine, when they have gone the day without a meal.
“God is the one who supports me, and we will continue to do this until God makes us stop.” – Jorge Muñoz
For the last five years the majority of the food and funding has come from over half of Jorge’s $700 a week paycheck. Recently, Jorge turned his efforts into a non-profit named “An Angel in Queens” (named after one of the nicknames given to him). Jorge hopes the status as a non-profit will make it easier for people and organizations to help donate. In recent years, they have expanded to serving meals at seven locations seven nights a week and now a Saturday breakfast. On their busiest nights the Muñoz family has fed over 140 people, and estimate that nearly 100,000 meals have been served since Jorge began in 2004.
Jorge Muñoz really has become an angel in Queens. His simple choice to help feed his hungry neighbors has now impacted thousands. Even more inspirational than his generosity in feeding is his commitment to meet their needs every day of the week, no matter the weather, no matter the cost.