NEW YORK CITY -- After 23 years of being a restaurant owner in Tustin, Calif., she picked up her life and headed to the Big Apple to help.
Since 1980 Angie Kardashian built a life in California at her restaurant "Angie's Cuisine Italiano," which was between MCAS Tustin and El Toro. She had become a big part of the Marine Corps community there. She was the president of the Chamber of Commerce, fed Marines from the base everyday and hosted 18 years of free Thanksgiving dinners for Marines and sailors stationed at both air stations.
"The first year we only had about 125 Marines," said Kardashian. "It grew and grew each year. Finally we were feeding more than 750 people." She had performed so many acts of kindness to help the quality of life for "her Marines" that the base commanders could never completely thank her. But that's not what Angie is all about. "The Marine Corps was a big part of my life," said Kardashian. "The Marines were like my kids. I loved seeing the young Marines come in and eat."
Things seemed pretty good for her out west, but due to government cutbacks both air stations had to close and it hit Angie pretty hard. "The Thanksgiving after the Marines left I didn't even get out of bed," she said. "It took a big part out of my life."
Then September 11, 2001 came and Angie, as most Americans did, reevaluated her life. She thought, "what could I do? I can cook, I'll go to New York and cook for the firemen."
So she headed to New York City and walked around Manhattan asking if it would be ok to cook for firehouses in the city. "I asked about five houses and they agreed," she said. "So I went back to Tustin and sold my restaurant. It was time to do something else."
After three months with her restaurant in escrow she headed back to New York on a very symbolic and emotional day for her - Thanksgiving.
"I started with six houses and have been going strong ever since," said Kardashian.
Kardashian has fed 83 fire companies in almost 50 firehouses throughout New York City. On 23 January 2003 Kardashian was in upper Manhattan at Engine 95, Ladder 36, known as the "House of Pain" but dubbed the "House of Love" after 9/11. She treated more than 20 firefighters to a dinner of pistachio chicken with rice and broccoli salad. "Finally someone who can cook," said Gene McCarey, a Firefighter from Engine 93, Ladder 45.
The men of Engine 93, Ladder 45 who've been sharing Engine 95, Ladder 36's firehouse until 93/45's house is finished being renovated were all smiles as Angie cooked, joked and sang with them.
"I like to get my guest to sing "Amore" by Dean Martin," she said. "Most sing and some don't." The firefighters didn't let Angie down as they sang a rousing version. After the song they all sat down to a home cooked meal.
"It is great to see the community reaching out to us still," said Lt. Al Goodenough with 93/45, who joked and helped in the kitchen. "They see what we're going through and remember us, that's a good feeling." Kardashian even gave Goodenough the military treatment by measuring the distance between the cookie dough with a ruler while he placed them on the pan. At the end of dinner Kardashian served coffee, cookies and cake. She even had a candle for one visiting firefighter.
What does the future hold for this "philanthropist"? "I was planning on heading back home," she said. "But I was offered a few jobs so...why not stay. I really love it here."
Kardashian is also getting help from a friend at her church who is putting together a video of all the tape and film she shot at her visits to firehouses around the city. She said they are thinking of calling it the Acts of Kindness Video.
As Kardashian leaves the firehouses she wants them to know one thing, " That people still care about what they've done and what they're doing." The full stomachs and smiles from the firefighters answered Angie's question.
On a side note just before the men were sitting down to eat, the Rolling Stones were on the television performing "Angie" in a rerun from their concert at Madison Square Garden on 18 January 2003.