Bert Dawes was once a hammer-slinging, free-lance carpenter who frequented the mountains with his dog, Rocky, Dawes is now confined to his Hollywood apartment when he's not in the hospital. Sometimes he's too weak to walk to the kitchen to make something to eat. Dawes, 27, has AIDS.
Fortunately, he has found some help. A volunteer from Project Angel Food, a West Hollywood-based program, brings Dawes a free hot meal at noon Monday through Friday. He is one of about 80 patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome confined to home who are helped by the program, said Administrative Director Robert Ledwon.
"A lot of the clients are very, very sick," Ledwon said. "Many are too sick to go shopping or to cook for themselves. Some have families to take care of them, but many are alone." Dawes is one of the latter.
"If it wasn't for Angel Food, it would just be another frozen burrito," Dawes said, as he munched on a cookie from an earlier meal delivery. The thin, hollow-cheeked man smiled and added: "That one square keeps me healthy."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 19, 1990 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 3 Column 3 Zones Desk 2 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Project Angel Food--A story in the Westside section on April 8 misspelled the name of the founder of Project Angel Food, Marianne Williamson, who describes herself as a facilitator of a nondenominational spiritual fellowship. The same story incorrectly reported that the L.A. Center for Living was defunct.
Volunteers prepare about 1,600 meals a month in the rented kitchen of Crescent Heights United Methodist Church in West Hollywood. One recent Friday, 77 meals were delivered to patients scattered throughout Los Angeles. The menu included Swiss steak with noodles, spinach salad and strawberry shortcake.
"We try to make the meals homey and tasty," said Guy Blume, an interior designer who moonlights as the program's volunteer chef.
At 9 a.m., Blume and about a dozen kitchen volunteers begin arriving at the church and are soon chopping up salad, cooking noodles and packing the meals into aluminum containers. Some of the containers are marked to show they are specially prepared for clients who don't eat meat or have other dietary restrictions.
About a dozen people who serve as drivers arrive about 11 a.m., greeting each other with hugs and helping to sort the lunches into brown bags designated for different parts of the city. Before the drivers set out, armed with lists of names and addresses, they join hands in a circle with the kitchen workers and bow their heads in prayer.
"We'd just like to say thank you for all the angels here today," one man said, producing smiles all around.
After the drivers leave, another shift of volunteers cleans up the kitchen and begins preparation for the next day's meals. Sometimes their work extends into the afternoon.
Project Angel Food was started last September by Marianne Williams, the leader of a local religious group, as part of the now-defunct Los Angeles Center for Living, a drop-in support center for people with long-term illnesses. Many of the 180 volunteers belong to Williams' group.
The program operates on a monthly budget of $15,000, most of it from private contributions, and is patterned after two similar but larger organizations, God's Love We Deliver in New York City and Project Open Hand in San Francisco.
The larger of these two, the $2.6-million Project Open Hand, was started in 1987, and last year served 800 home-confined and impoverished AIDS patients daily, according to director of development Skip Sikora.
All three organizations cater to AIDS patients who don't qualify for other community programs, like Meals on Wheels, that deliver meals to invalids at home.
Most of Project Angel Food's clients find out about the service through word-of-mouth networking or AIDS patient support organizations, such as AIDS Project Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, Project Angel Food is the only program of its kind that is designed specifically for AIDS patients, said Jack Cotter, Necessities of Life program manager for AIDS Project Los Angeles.
"Los Angeles, unfortunately, is very under the ball as far as awareness of the problem of the number of people who have AIDS in this city, who are dying at home, who have nothing to eat and no one to care for them at all," Ledwon said.
One of the clients, Marc Cappuccilli, 30, of West Hollywood, used to be a volunteer with the program. But after a recent hospital stay for AIDS-related health problems, he didn't feel well enough to do his own grocery shopping and cooking and asked to be on the receiving end of the program.
"It was a big decision," he said. "It's kind of another phase of the illness, like, oh, no, now I'm considered homebound."
Although the central purpose of the program is providing food, the volunteers who make and deliver the meals also give a lot of themselves to the patients, Williams said.
"We're not just a food delivery service, we're a love delivery service. I think that's at least as healing as the food is," Williams said.
Robert Hales, who for the past two months has been delivering food almost every day for Project Angel Food in his gray Chevy Blazer, said the experience of visiting AIDS patients, some in run-down, inadequate housing, has been a an eye-opener.