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November 08, 2007 - A Taste for Life

What: A food and wine tasting extravagaza!

Where: Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th St. Denver

When: Thursday, November 8, 2007

Time: 6 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $95 for individual and $900 for a table

Beneficiary: Project Angel Heart

Mistress of Ceremonies: Erin Pulling

Master of Ceremonies: Mark Thrun, MD

Gala Chairperson(s): Christopher K. M. Leach

Founders: Charles Robbins

Executive Director: Erin Pulling

Staff: Joy Armstead, Betty Aldworth, Brandy Brogan, Kathryn Brinkmann, Mindy Davidson, Liz Dymond, Jon Emanuel, John Felber, Amy Fleming, Megan Gibbons, Margaret Kapla, Mary Linder, Robin List, Leanne Loewenthal, Jason Medrano, Sandy Nagler, Russ Nesiba, Thom Olson, Lindsey Purves, Anne Treacy and Jeralynn Trujillo

Sponsors: Presenting sponsors: MAC AIDS Fund and Exdo Event Center;
Corporate sponsors: Kennedy Child and Fog P.C., Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Bouquets, Frederic Printing, Out Front Colorado and The Write Design

Attendance: 550

Attire: Cocktail

Florist: Bouquets

Planning Committee: David Alexander, Jeff Giadone, Dave McKlveen and Lee Rudofsky

Board of Directors: Mark Thrun, MD, President, BJ Dyer, Vice-President , Lee Rudofsky, Vice-President, Dean McConnell, Secretary, John Grigsby, Jr., Treasurer,
Directors: David Alexander, Jeremy Anderson, Jeff Giadone, Rosalie Goldman, Paul Jeselnick and Lorii Rabinowitz

Blacktie Photos by: Marcelo Mainzer

 Board Member Rosalie Goldman with Executive Director,  Erin Pulling and event donor Matt Lanbauer
Board Member Rosalie Goldman with Executive Director, Erin Pulling and event donor Matt Lanbauer

By Marcelo Mainzer

Imagine learning you have a life threatening disease like HIV/AIDS, then adding to that pain and loneliness, imagine you are hungry. Then imagine a knock at the door and the darkness is lifted by a smiling face and listening ear, soon the smell of good food lifts your spirit and nurtures not only your body but your soul. This is what happens every day, thanks to the staff and volunteers of Project Angel Heart.

Project Angel Heart has survived many changes since 1991 when Charles Robbins returned to Denver to find old friends living with AIDS and “wasting away before his eyes.” It has grown to include people with other life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. And then in 1994, faced with budget cuts, the organization had to narrow its focus back to its original clients.

By 1999, however, the Board of Directors declared its intention to re-expand Project Angel Heart's mission again. The need for larger and larger facilities, to keep up with the need of an ever growing list of clients, plagued Project Angel Heart until 2000. According to Project Angel Heart staff, “That year, through a very fortuitous set of circumstances, we discovered an available kitchen--big, modern, affordable and easy to clean, but we had to raise a lot of money fast to take advantage of a unique opportunity.”

Thanks to Randy Barbour, a long time kitchen volunteer and board member, who volunteered to spearhead the capital campaign, the new kitchen became a reality. Tragically, Randy was soon after diagnosed with colon cancer and died in April of 2000. In his memory, Project Angel Heart's new kitchen is named Randy’s Kitchen.

Fundraising is necessary chore for all non-profits and often it takes a lot of creativity just to come up with new methods. Fortunately this was not the case on Thursday the 8th of November. How do you raise money to feed people good food, you feed people good food. The tradition began in 1991, when Racine's restaurant donated a pan of lasagna; in 2007 Taste of Life brought together 18 different culinary experts including Alto, The Avenue Grill, Black Pearl, Budini, Cooranbong, Culinary School of the Rockies, Deluxe, Gelato d’Italia Café, Hapa Sushi, House of Commons, Jax Fish House, Jim N Nicks, Kiva, La Sandia, Lifestyles Catering, Mezcal & Tambien, Montecito, The Espresso Affair, Theorie, Zuni Kitchen and Project Angel Heart itself.

The mouth watering smells that, floated, mix mingled and wafted around the enormous space at EXDO Event Center kept everyone returning to their favorite food table. By 7:00 the large hall was filled with people talking and laughing and, eating a veritable cornucopia of culinary treasures. Mark Thrun, MD, President of the Board of Directors of Project Angel Heart, gave his gratitude to all the people who put the evening together. Mark reported that Project Angel Heart will serve over 700 people that week, and he said, “That’s thanks to you, so please give yourselves a round of applause” and they did.

Mark then introduced Erin Pulling, the Executive Director of Project Angel Heart. Erin also began with gratitude, thanking ”the volunteers, auction donors, the restaurants, caterers and food specialty shops for making tonight possible.” Erin Pulling said, “Tonight we are celebrating possibilities. Sixteen years ago Project Angel Heart’s founder believed in the possibility of nutritious meals, delivered with love, free of charge for people fighting for their lives against life threatening illnesses.” She continued, “Others believed in their possibilities and became donors and volunteers, and Project Angel Heart moved from a possibility to a reality. We receive calls everyday from people who are desperate, desperately in need of home-delivered meals, who are living with AIDS, cancer or another life threatening diseases.” Erin told the greatest secret when she said, “If you hold a belief in your heart, act on that belief and it will come true.”

The food was indeed lavish, decadent and tasty and left everyone feeling wonderful, and doubly so knowing that treating themselves well they are doing the same for those most in need. “One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency."--Maya Angelou

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