It all started about eight years ago when one National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) employee started volunteering at Project Angel Heart. Since then, a group from NREL has volunteered every …
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It all started about eight years ago when one National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) employee started volunteering at Project Angel Heart.
Since then, a group from NREL has volunteered every year with the Denver-based nonprofit, which prepares medically-tailored meals and delivers them to people living with life-threatening illnesses. Through the years, the NREL employees have done just about everything in their volunteer work with the nonprofit — from cutting pies to wrapping cookies — but this was the first time for them to make zero-emissions food deliveries.
“This helps get NREL's message out to the community,” said Alex Schroeder, an NREL employee who works as part of the lab's planning and performance management team. “It takes the research (done at NREL) and applies to the practical world.”
But not only that, added Gina Artese, the administrative assistant for the hydrogen and fuel cell team at NREL, “it's fun to get out of the office and do something good for people.”
On Nov. 30, eight NREL employees — Schroeder, Artese, Ernest Tucker, Angie Rhyne, Josh Martin, Anna Talamantez, Wayne Hicks and Shaun Onorato — delivered meals to about 30 of Project Angel Heart's clients in the central Denver neighborhoods using two Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles and one personal electric vehicle.
“Sustainability is one of our core values,” said Hannah Koschnitzke, the marketing coordinator for Project Angel Heart. “It's something we work hard on in our building every day. So, it's really cool that NREL was able to volunteer and deliver the meals with zero emissions.”
The group gathered at about 10 a.m. at Project Angel Heart, 4950 Washington St. in Denver, to get a tour of the facility. They then received a briefing from Mark Smith, Project Angel Heart's volunteer resources manager, with maps and other details they needed to know on making the deliveries.
They then loaded the three zero-emissions vehicles with the delivery bags full of food, split into teams of three or four and were on the road by 11:15 a.m.
Martin, an engineer at NREL, has lived in the Denver area for about 10 years, but hasn't had a lot of opportunities to volunteer in the community because of his and his wife's alternating work schedules — they had to make sure someone was home to be with their young children, he said.
“My dad volunteered at a food bank and always talked about it,” Martin said. “I've always wanted a little part of that.”
Then the opportunity to volunteer alongside his colleagues with Project Angel Heart came up. And because it took place on a Friday — Martin's day off — and he could be home by the time his kids were out of school, he jumped on the opportunity.
About midway through the deliveries Martin and Tucker pulled up to the home of Julie and Jim — whose last name is being withheld for privacy — in the Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell vehicle.
Jim, 84, has a terminal heart condition, and the two are grateful to receive the hot meals from Project Angel Heart, Julie, 72, said.
They have been married for 33 years, and “he was the cook in the family. He cooked, and I cleaned,” Julie said. She added jokingly, “he didn't last long on my cooking.”
Jim and Julie have been getting the meals from Project Angel Heart since April, Julie said, but have been donating to the nonprofit since about 1991 when the nonprofit got its start.
Jim worked as a manufacturing engineer at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and when Tucker pointed out the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that they made the delivery in, Julie noted that it was “pretty spiffy.”
The NREL teams finished their deliveries for the day and were back at Project Angel Heart by about 1 p.m. to say their farewells.
“Volunteers are a critical component of our operation,” Smith said. “We don't take for granted the invaluable gifts they bring to Project Angel Heart.”
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