What began as a dream five years ago to offer opportunities for special needs adults – and to provide wholesome meals to the community – continues as a thriving mission today, as the Heavenly Angels sandwich shop celebrates a half decade anniversary this month.
Coordinating restaurant operations is Marci Hammonds, wife of Jesse Hammonds, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Three Rivers. The Hammonds family moved to the area last fall, and Marci found out about the job through Richard Dockery, a church member and supporter of Heavenly Angels.
Keeping a business, even a nonprofit that receives significant funding through donations, can be a challenge at any time, but add in the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the task gets even tougher. Still, it’s something Hammonds has taken in stride.
“On the one hand (operating the restaurant during COVID-19) is all I’ve ever known,” she said. “It has presented some challenges but we’re still continuing to work with our angels and serve the community, and we appreciate all the support we receive.”
In addition to serving sandwiches, soups and salads (as well as cookies) and beverages at 201 E. Thornton St. in Three Rivers, Heavenly Angels also delivers meals (pre-order only) to customers each Thursday in George West. On a recent Thursday, angel Jenny Gerth and her mother Kristin delivered the 32 lunches to people in George West.
To help protect the angels from illness, the number who work each day is limited. Two angels work at the restaurant each day along with Hammonds and a crew of dedicated volunteers. Previously, the number of angels working on site had been limited to one per day.
“I have gotten to know them pretty well and see their strengths as well as areas where I need to encourage them to grow,” Hammonds said. “It’s been great to get to know them and spend time with them.”
Angels currently involved with the restaurant are Amy, Clint, Jenny, Jill, Rose and Sophia.
Especially during a pandemic, Hammonds said one of the biggest challenges has been getting volunteers.
“We operate solely by the efforts of volunteers, and with the illness and so many other things happening, it can be a challenge,” she said. “We do have wonderful volunteers but we can always use more. We do have a couple of new ones, so we’re definitely thankful for that.”
Since Hammonds started as coordinator, the restaurant added pasta salad to its menu along with sandwiches, paninis and soups. Heavenly Angels currently offers six soups, with different varieties available on different days, including chicken noodle, chicken tortilla, white bean chicken, taco, tomato basil, broccoli cheese, tortellini and cheeseburger.
“We have a different soup every day, and this fall we’ll be adding some new ones, including chili, which is really popular,” Hammonds said.
The angel wing pasta salad is made using bow tie pasta, another nod to the Heavenly Angels name.
Board member and volunteer Tim Jambers said he has been involved with Heavenly Angels since it first began.
“We wanted to give (special needs adults) in our community something to do and to encourage them,” he said. “I taught at the elementary school for 16 years, so I taught most of these students. It’s been great to work with the angels, the volunteers and different coordinators. We are really blessed with Marci. She’s awesome.”
Hammonds said she enjoys watching the angels grow and gain confidence, and how they light up when they see a customer they recognize.
“Clint (one of the angels) loves coming here – he said it’s like coming home,” Hammonds said.
Board President Allyn Weber said he became involved with Heavenly Angels through his friendship with Bill and Kristin Gerth, whose daughter Jenny is one of the angels.
“It’s been a blessing for me to be involved with the Heavenly Angels,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see the angels grow in so many ways, and of course we appreciate the community’s support.”
Heavenly Angels is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Daily soups and other specials are posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Those interested in placing an order, volunteering or making a donation can call 361-784-2031.