Jorge Munoz

This nomination was submitted by Toan Lam,, founder of the organization GoInspireGo.com.  It was submitted as it was originally published in the Huffington Post.

I am humbled. I met a real life Angel recently. His name is Jorge Munoz and he lives in Queens, New York. This is not just a story about a man who has spent the last few years tirelessly cooking, packing and giving free, hot meals to hungry people every day under a subway stop–some 70,000 in total. It’s a lesson about compassion for people and humanity. It’s also about how one 46 year-old school bus driver, was moved to take action in a selfless and big way. Munoz says he found his passion and path in service after choosing to stop turning his cheek to a growing problem, so prevalent in his neighborhood, and so many other communities across America. Munoz says he spends more than half of his salary, of roughly $700 per week, buying food from local grocery stores. Every night, for the past four years, Munoz comes home from work, takes a quick coffee break, then heads out to diligently collect food donations from the community and then shops for more groceries. He heads home to meet a team, consisting of his mother, sister, 5-year-old nephew and a friend. Together, they are a well-oiled machine, as they multiply whatever they’re having for dinner into, by 120 to 140 home cooked meals, carefully packed with love and care in his tiny kitchen, in his shoe-box size flat. His living room looks more like a pantry, filled with fresh food, parceled out, and ready to be cooked. There are even bags of clothes and blankets, cleaned and ready to be given out. His stove, isn’t fully operating anymore because it’s been overused to cook food in bulk. Because the stove is broken, he carries huge restaurant sized vats of food up to his sister’s apartment to cook– just so he can make his daily deadline. "They depend on me," says Munoz. Even with an injured back, he never once complains about the love and labor he puts into his daily routine of service. 9:00pm. It’s time to pack his white Toyota pickup truck with coolers full of hot drinks and food and hit the road. Every single night at 9:30pm, for the past four years, Munoz and his family have been repeating this routine, which he calls his "second job" every day, except one. With furrowed brows and a disappointed frown on his face, Munoz regretfully admits, he did miss one day — The food and drinks were packed, but a snowstorm shut down all lines of transportation. " He says with disappointment. "The subway and buses all closed, we couldn’t get to them." Why would anyone spend most their free time and energy putting so much love in home cooked meals for strangers on the street? Arguably, some people wouldn’t don’t even do this for their significant others — But that’s another blog topic altogether. Words can’t really describe why Munoz so unselfishly does what he does. He just does. You just have to be there to experience it. But when you’re there, watching him do his work, at the gritty Roosevelt Avenue subway stop, you begin to understand why. Sarah Mirza, (who at the time was an unemployed TV producer who I invited to come along on the shoot) and I hopped on the subway to meet Munoz and his small team at the subway stop, where a line quickly multiplied… from 7, 14, 20… then a crowd of over a hundred neatly and politely lined up. Meanwhile, many passersby clutched their purses when walking by this group of people waiting for food. When Munoz first started this project approximately 4 years ago, he says there were only 8 people. Then there were 24, and today, the crowd has grown to nearly 150 people because of the down economy. When Munoz’s truck pulls up, the melancholy, stoic, troubled looks on their faces brightened. (I’m tearing up as I write this and recall the moment.) And wow, the smiles. The expressions on their faces reminded me of when family and old friends have just been reunited at the airport, after not seeing each other for a long period of time. "The smiles on their faces, when see they got something to eat….aaaaah, [We’re] feeding [more than] a hundred people," Munoz says passionately. "If you change the life of one guy, that’s enough…" Munoz says the idea came to him one day, when waiting to pick up his students at a routine school bus stop. "I saw people throwing away food at a food factory," he says adamantly, "I thought, why are they throwing that away? I can give those to the hungry people I see on the street everyday." He asked if he could pick up the perfectly fresh food and take it to the hungry strangers, he’s seen everyday. Strangers whose faces became so familiar. Munoz says, the inspiration came from, "God and my Mom. Since I was little, my mom teach me to share, and that’s what we’re doing here." Although Munoz isn’t getting paid for this second job (remember, he actually has to use own money to do this), he seems so happy in service — Just by the tone in his voice, you can feel his passion for compassion. His eagerness to serve brings him joy. He says he’s happy to have a paying job, so he can continue doing this. "You have to see their smiles, on their faces. When they smile, I always say that’s how I get paid."