By Bill Parry
A Woodhaven man was awarded the New York State Senate Liberty Medal during a ceremony at St. Mark’s AME Church in Jackson Heights Saturday.
Jorge Munoz, the founder of An Angel in Queens Foundation, an organization that delivers free home-cooked meals to those in need for more than a decade, was presented the medal, which is the highest civilian honor that an individual can receive by the New York State Senate.
“Jorge and his family have been handing out free meals to day laborers and homeless New Yorkers beneath the 7 train in Jackson Heights for many years,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “I experienced first-hand the altruistic work he does every night of the year by distributing home-cooked meals to many people in need. He began his mission on a 2004 summer night by bringing food to a laborer who was hungry. The following night he fed eight New Yorkers, and since then volunteers, his family and him have been distributing free dinners to more than 120 hungry people very single night of the year.”
Peralta presented Munoz with his medal after helping him distribute meals with him on Roosevelt Avenue last week.
“It’s an honor to award Jorge for all of his philanthropic efforts with the state distinction,” Peralta said. “He is a real angel, a true-life superhero under the elevated tracks of the 7 train. He is an inspiration to all. Lots of people are able to eat a hot meal every night thanks to this Angel of Queens.”
The New York State Liberty Medal is not Munoz’s only honor. He was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Barack Obama, was named one of CNN’s Heroes in 2009, and he was presented with the Order of Congress in the Degree of Knight by the Senate of Colombia and he was also a TimesLedger Ambassador Award honoree in November.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized by Senator Peralta,” Munoz said. “He is a person who fights for immigrants and hard-working families. I deliver food every night to dozens of people in need, but Senator Peralta reaches more people through his work as a legislator. To receive this prestigious medal from him, it is wonderful.”
Meanwhile, Peralta joined the NYPD and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots at the Queens Center mall last Friday and distributed more than 3,000 toys to schools, family shelters, and community and faith-based organizations as part of his annual toy drive.
“We organize this toy drive every year to give back to the community and to ensure children in need have a reason to be happy about during the holidays,” Peralta said. “As many parents go through difficult times and can not afford to buy a toy for their kids, I hope these gifts bring a little joy to them.”
Other associations that will distribute the toys to children in need include the LeFrak Tenants Association, Catholic Charities and Elmcor Youth Activities.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr