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Immigrants Of The Week: Jorge Munoz, Pavel Goberman, and David Campos

by Greg Siskind


Most people think you have to be wealthy to be a philanthropist. But the term, which literally just refers to one who loves people, refers to anyone who donates money, time or expertise to benefit a socially beneficial cause. And one ordinary American who got some well-deserved attention this week is Colombian-born New York City bus driver Jorge Munoz. Munoz is a beneficiary of the 1986 legalization program and like many of the three million Americans who had their status legalized under law, he gives back to his country on a daily basis.

CNN describes him as a hero and explain why:

Munoz obtained legal residency in 1987 and later became a citizen, along with his mother and sister. He never stood on a street corner to find work, but as an immigrant, he identifies with many of the men he feeds.

Munoz began his unorthodox meal program -- now his nonprofit, An Angel in Queens -- in the summer of 2004. Friends told him about large amounts of food being thrown away at their jobs. At first, he collected leftovers from local businesses and handed out brown bag lunches to underprivileged men three nights a week. Within a few months, Munoz and his mother were preparing 20 home-cooked meals daily.

Numbers gradually increased over the years to 35 per night, then 60. In recent months, that number has jumped to as many as 140 meals a night.

Sustaining this endeavor consumes most of his life. To his mother's dismay, his family's Woodhaven home is bursting with goods related to this work. An oversize freezer takes up most of the dining room, and the porch is lined with canned food and paper products.

Daily operations now run like a well-oiled machine. Munoz gets up around 5:00 a.m. to drive his bus route, and he calls home on his breaks to see how the cooking is going. When he gets home around 5:30 p.m. -- often stopping to pick up food donations -- he helps pack up meals before heading out to "his corner" in Jackson Heights.

"He comes here without fail," says one of the men. "It could be cold, it could be really hot, but he's here."

Thanks to reader Ravi for this great suggestion for today's Immigrant of the Day.