Father Angel never expected to become a restaurateur this late in life, but other plans were drawn for him and his generous heart.
At 79, the Catholic priest from Spain has become the busy manager of a flourishing restaurant chain conceived to help the poor. Called “Robin Hood,” these eateries use breakfast and lunch revenues to offer free dinners to the homeless.
Father Angel started with one restaurant in Madrid in November-- now he runs four. He is also in talks to open a Robin Hood in Miami in January.
"Sometimes solidarity is not about giving money but being there and putting on the apron, serving meals and, above all, giving affection," he told Periodismo Digital, a Spanish publication.
"In ‘Robin Hood,’ the menu is the company."
Father Angel is not new to charitable causes. Through his organization Messengers of Peace, in the last five decades he has run homes for the elderly, orphanages and centers for drug addicts.
But this project utilizes a unique model.
He said the idea came to him one afternoon as he was exiting church and ran into a long line of people waiting to get a snack. “I said that ‘this cannot happen in 21st century Madrid’,” he recalled.
From the get-go, he wanted to create a space where homeless people could have dinner as if they were in a real living room.
“What we want is to give people a warm dinner, with dignity, to sit at a table with a tablecloth and real silverware, not plastic, and attended by waiters," he told the paper.
In addition to eating dinner, guests have access to free Wi-Fi, TV and a restroom. They can also take food with them and reserve the place at no cost to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions.
Father Angel said he has been contacted by several restaurants throughout Spain that wish to join the initiative: two in Madrid, two in Asturias and one Castilla-La Mancha has expressed interest. "Little by little, it is raining people who want to offer their restaurant to be able to do this for the neediest," he said.
As for the apt name of “Robin Hood,” he said he picked it because he wanted to highlight the concept of sharing-– and not antagonize the rich and the poor.
Said the priest, “Solidarity is not giving leftovers, but sharing what you have. And people must realize how lonely many people feel."