By Oona Milliken | [email protected]
Though Angels Cafe in Williamsburg might seem like a regular bagel shop, it has a hidden secret: the cafe donates 40% of its profits to North Brooklyn Angels, a local non-profit that’s dedicated to providing meals to Brooklynites in need. The two North Brooklyn organizations have partnered since Angels Cafe opened its doors to the public in April 2022. Since then, Angels Cafe has committed to various ways of giving back to the community, both through North Brooklyn Angels and providing their own forms of charity.
Now, the cafe is creating a gift card system so that people in the community can give out a free meal to anyone who might be hungry. People can purchase an Angels Cafe gift card to take home and give to someone they know or they can put it in a box to be given out at a North Brooklyn Angels food drive where the card will go out to community members. Ana Maria Camejo, a co-founder of Angels Cafe, said that the program was a pivot from previous food drives at the cafe so that people could pick up a free meal from the cafe whenever they wanted.
“We launched that a month ago, and this is how it works. So online, or in the store, people buy this card. It’s only one price, $9.99,” Camejo said. “I give it to the customer, and I ask, ‘Do you want to keep it for yourself or give it to someone as a gift card? Or do you want to put it in this box?’”
In the month since the program has been launched, that box has accrued more than 61 gift cards that will be handed out by the Brooklyn Angels.
Angels Cafe was started by Francesco Tamburriello and Ana Maria Camejo, partners in the cafe and in life, because the pair wanted to find a way to connect with their neighborhood and give to those in need.
According to Camejo, her husband first started volunteering in the kitchen of North Brooklyn Angels and found himself wanting to get more involved from there. Camejo said the non-profit traditionally only does lunch services, so Camejo and Tamburriello started out by providing North Brooklynites with breakfast. The physical store, Angels Cafe, emerged as a result.
Patrons at the cafe can also “pay it forward” and provide a free meal for another customer who comes along. Camejo said the idea came from an old Italian tradition of paying for a stranger’s coffee. Her husband is from Italy, Camejo is Colombian and Italian, and she said that the pair thought it would be nice to incorporate it into their restaurant, alongside their partnership with the North Brooklyn Angels.
“We say, ‘Why not mix it up the both ideas?’ Instead of just a coffee, why not create a breakfast program that customers can pay for a breakfast and we partner with the North Brooklyn Angels, they are giving to people and they are helping us in the production and logistical aspects,” Camejo said. “Give us like a freewheel to go into communities and give breakfast to people.”
Neil Sheehan, the Chairperson and Co-Founder of the North Brooklyn Angels, said he was grateful for the partnership with North Brooklyn Angels and enjoyed seeing young people get involved in helping out their community.
“I think the demographic is important. If you look at some studies of younger people, people are looking for a way to do good, if they could find a way to do good and eat, I think they’re fine spending $15 or an extra $10 to feed someone,” Sheehan said.