DENVER -- Every year, more than 200 restaurants participate in a fundraiser called Dining Out For Life except this year, no one is dining out.
The one-night event on April 30 is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Project Angel Heart, bringing in about $400,000. The nonprofit delivers medically tailored meals to adults and seniors who are ill.
In the past, participating restaurants have donated a portion of their proceeds to the nonprofit but now many of those restaurants are struggling. COVID-19 concerns and a Denver social distancing order has forced many restaurants to close or adopt a takeout-only model.
"This year, we’ve been looking to funders and supporters to help contribute to addressing the gap by not having that event like we used to have it," said Owen Ryan, Project Angel Heart's CEO.
Ryan explains the nonprofit is holding a different kind of fundraiser this year. The name has been rebranded to Dining In For Life and his goal is to support the restaurants that have supported Project Angel Heart for the past three decades.
On April 30, he's encouraging Colorado residents to order carryout from their favorite neighborhood restaurant and consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.
"These restaurants have been supporting us and people chronically ill in Colorado, now is the chance for us to support them and at the same time, keep making sure that meals are going out the door," said Ryan.
Approximately 1,200 people across the state receive meals from Project Angel Heart on a weekly basis. Those meals are more important than ever, many of their clients are too sick to leave their homes or can't risk contracting COVID-19.
"For a lot of us, it has really reinforced how important this is right now, our clients are people who are living with high blood pressure, various cancers, diabetes, COPD and those are exactly the pre-existing conditions that complicate COVID, so these folks really can’t go outside their house right now," said Ryan.
The nonprofit is sending out about double the amount of meals with a fraction of its workforce. Volunteers usually help prepare the food but they are not being allowed in the kitchen at this time.
"So normally we would get about 500 people as volunteers who help us on a weekly basis — that’s just not safe to do right now," said Ryan.
Ryan said there's still a need for volunteers to help deliver meals and they are currently looking for additional people who want to help.
"People are beyond appreciative, you see quite a bit of emotion meeting you at the door. I think people are really anxious and scared right now and knowing that our meals keep coming every week gives them a sense of relief and hope," said Ryan.