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North Brooklyn Angels’ food truck receives early holiday gift

Broadway Stages Plays Santa for Residents, Community Members of Cooper Park Houses

December 22, 2017 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Volunteer Sonja Wetzel gives a package out to a helper. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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It’s Thursday, just after the noon hour. Remnants of the season’s second snowfall cover the grass at Cooper Park Houses with a thin layer of white that neither sun nor ambient temperatures are strong enough to melt. Along the sidewalk adjacent to Jackson Avenue, about two dozen people wait patiently for their turn to secure a complete lunch from the volunteers manning the North Brooklyn Angels’ Food Truck.

Jackson Avenue has been the Angels’ Truck regularly scheduled stop for the past few months. On Dec. 14, the North Brooklyn Angels Food Truck was scheduled to receive a substantial donation from nearby Broadway Stages.

“One thousand dollars will pay for 250 lunches,” Special Projects Director Felice Kirby explains before moving off to greet Broadway Stages’ representative Monica Holowacz, who has arrived to deliver the bounty.

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Meanwhile, Angels’ Food Truck Executive Director Ryan Kuonen moves between volunteers and clients like a football coach planning a close fourth quarter. She, along with Cooper Park Houses Resident’s Council Vice President E.W. Fye, runs Thursday’s lunch stop with precision.

“When they first came here,” Fye pauses to explain, “it was hard to find the right place to park the food truck, so we took it to the [residents’] council, and came up with this spot.”

“That’s been an issue all over,” Kuonen agreed. “We have to work with the Fire Department in particular so we don’t block access.”

Inside the van, volunteers Sonja Wetzel, James Brady and Claudell Lewis work over steam tables that quickly fog eyeglasses and camera lenses. Today’s lunch special is a fish filet with vegetable rice and fruit cocktail. The odor is distinctly piscine, but not unpleasantly so.

“We had this barbecue chicken once,” Wetzel recalls after being asked if any particular menu stood out as especially popular. “I think we ran out of them in less than an hour, and people still ask when we’re getting it back.”

At present, the Angels purchases food already prepared, and staff merely plate it out into portable take-out carriers. But that is soon to change. An unused basement cafeteria at St. John Lutheran Church has nearly completed the renovations needed to pass Department of Health guidelines, with work donated by restaurateurs Norm Brodsky and Josh Cohen.

“We’re really looking forward to the different kinds of foods having our own kitchen will enable us to serve,” Kuonen said. “We’ll be able to offer vegetarian and vegan options.”

In addition, the St. John Lutheran kitchen will enable the Angels’ Food Truck to provide breakfast service, as well as lunches.

“A lot of our clients are day-laborers,” Kuonen explained, “so by the time lunch rolls around, they’re already away at their work site.”

With service over, Wetzel, Brady and Lewis begin clean up, working with the ease and precision of long practice. The van’s interior resembles a Finnish steam bath as the hotel pans are removed from the steam table, the hot water drained.

Outside a man wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket walks up.

“Is there any food left?” he asks.

Brady hands over a pair of packaged lunches in a plastic bag for the man.

Because North Brooklyn Angels operates through volunteers, they’re always looking for fresh blood, especially as the holiday season advances like an invading army.

People interested in working on a prep team, dessert corps, flyer distribution or transportation can contact North Brooklyn Angels at http://www.northbrooklynangels.org/volunteer.


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