Downtown Miami

Miami Heat donates unsold arena food to area shelters

Adriana Simmons, 7, left, and her sister Alexis, 5, get a hug from Miami Heat mascot Burnie on Monday at the Chapman Partnership.
Adriana Simmons, 7, left, and her sister Alexis, 5, get a hug from Miami Heat mascot Burnie on Monday at the Chapman Partnership. Miami Herald Staff

On Aug. 7, Miyelin Delgado came home to her two-bedroom apartment in Miami from a day out with her children to find all of their belongings tossed on the lawn.

Pregnant with her fourth child, Delgado, 28, and fiancé Miguel Gonzalez took what they could, threw it in their Ford Expedition and drove off. She couldn’t bear her older girls having to see their stuff outside. For the next two weeks, the couple lived in the SUV, folding down the seats and using blankets to make it more comfortable.

“It was a looonggg two weeks,” she said. But then an officer pulled them over and she wound up at the Chapman Partnership where she and her children were given a room, food and help.

“You hear horror stories about shelters but this is the best thing that could have happened to me,’ said Delgado, as she munched on chicken and macaroni and cheese Monday as part of a special food delivery from the Miami Heat and sponsors including C1 Bank, Levy Restaurants and AmericanAirlines Arena.

The day, which coincided with the national MLK Day of Service, was planned to highlight the basketball team’s efforts to package food not sold at games and donate it to either the Chapman Partnership or the Miami Rescue Mission. Over the last seven seasons, the Re-Heat program has donated more than 33,000 pounds of food including pasta, chicken, shrimp, rice, chips, hamburgers, hot dogs, even pizza in the box.

“This is just a part of what we do and I am proud and very pleased to be part of an organization that understands the importance of giving,” said former Miami Heat player and current team executive Alonzo Mourning, who donned gloves and served mac and cheese to Chapman’s residents.

Rufino Rengifo, executive chef for the arena, said his cooks prepare for about 15,000 meals a game and wind up donating about 1,000 to 1,500 meals to either organization.

“It allows us to use the food properly and use it for a good cause,” he said. “Its a great thing.”

As part of Monday’s holiday festivities, Miami Heat mascot Burnie banged on the Chapman door and then ushered everyone in to the cafeteria. Several kids gave Burnie high-fives, while others smiled for pictures.

“For a lot of our clients, life has just kicked them down and they feel like no one is paying attention to them,” said Holly Woodbury, vice president of development for the Chapman Partnership. “This is a way to show them that they matter. That they are special.”

Chapman Partnership depends on donations to help serve the home’s 500 residents, three meals a day. It costs Chapman about $1.23 per meal.

For Stacey, who didn’t want to use her last name to protect her 9-year-old daughter, Monday’s food delivery was a welcome treat. She said seeking help was a way for her to move forward after losing her job and apartment at the same time.

Comfort food like chicken, green beans and macaroni and cheese helped boost her spirits.

“We definitely don’t get this every day,” she said. “It’s nice to see that they are donating the food and not wasting it.”

For Delgado, seeing her children “eat good,” and “be happy” is worth everything — she knows it wasn’t long ago that she was terrified and alone. She had a difficult pregnancy and wasn’t able to work. Her fiancé made $9 an hour working at a construction site. There just wasn’t enough money to pay the $600 rent.

Delgado and her family are now close to having a home of their own. Her daughters look forward to having their own beds and decorating their room in pink.

But on Monday the girls focused on the food — Bella, 6, asked for a second helping of barbecue chicken and sister Noelani, 8, was all smiles when meeting “a basketball star.”

“He’s even taller than my Papi,” Noelani said of Mourning. “That’s really tall.”