The Reverend Angel Garcia Rodriguez is a Spanish priest who is also an innovator and entrepreneur whose nonprofit enterprises are designed to nourish the body and spirit of those in need.
He has opened four restaurants called Robin Hood in Madrid and other Spanish cities and hopes to see his mini chain grow. His innovative business, however, doesn’t involve robbing the rich to give to the poor. The restaurants serve breakfast and lunch to paying customers and use the revenue earned to cover costs of free evening dinners for the homeless. A New York Times story by Raphael Minder describes his work.
Father Angel, as he is called, told The Times poor people need to regain a sense of purpose and dignity that isn’t always on soup kitchen menus. “To get served by a waiter wearing a nice uniform, and to eat with proper cutlery, rather than a plastic fork, is what gives you back some dignity,” he said. He hopes to open a Robin Hood Restaurant in Miami in January, and is trying to convince celebrity chefs to volunteer their talents for occasional meals.
He is also president and founder of Messengers of Peace, a non governmental organization with 3,000 employees and 5,000 volunteers who run old age homes and services for people struggling with poverty, unemployment, other social ills, and the impact of deep pubic spending cuts in Spain. The organization also runs projects in developing countries.
Last year Father Angel began a community program an abandoned church in Madrid, where people, many of whom are destitute, are welcomed 24 hours day regardless of their religion. They can eat, consult with medical volunteers, access free WI-FI and use restrooms. Mass and occasional soccer games are shown on televisions screens. Food is served in the back pews. Father Angel and another priest say mass, and confession can be conduced by iPad for those who are hard of hearing. Father Angel, 79, acknowledged to The Times that his methods were not always in line with the church’s rules, notably his welcoming of gay couples. However, he says his actions and methods are broadly in line with the messages of Pope Francis. Read more stories about Father Angel’s efforts in the China Daily, Gulf News and theKuwait Times.