Open Arms of Minnesota started small in 1986. In fact, its first delivery was to only five men battling HIV/AIDS. Originally, the organization had hoped to deliver nutritious meals to people with HIV/AIDS. Now, it does much more, including women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, individuals with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and people with multiple sclerosis in its services.
Kent Linder, Program Director of Open Arms, says, “Our expansion has allowed us to reach many people living with breast cancer, MS, or ALS who wouldn’t otherwise have a healthy meal to eat, at a time when they need comfort and nutrition the most. We realized that we had developed a unique model of care that would benefit others in our community who are sick, hungry, and have nowhere else to turn for help.”
With 12 full-time employees and nearly 1,400 volunteers—some of whom have been helping out for more than 10 years—Open Arms has been able to keep its program going strong. In 2007, the organization delivered to 703 individuals in the community, and an additional 250 people through two congregate lunch programs it’s part of. More than 1.2 million people have been helped in the past 23 years.
Linder explains, “We have continued to meet the needs of clients in our community living with HIV/AIDS. There has never been a waiting list for our service. In addition, the expansion to other illnesses has not only been beneficial to our ‘new’ clients, it has also improved the services that we can offer to our HIV/AIDS meal recipients.
“We are in the process of building a new kitchen, which will allow us to continue to say ‘yes’ to those living with illness in our community. Our long-term goal is to serve great food to anyone in the metro area living with a chronic and progressive illness. With the community’s support, we hope that we can be sure that no one living with illness will go hungry.”
All the support and need in the community has kept Open Arms growing. Just last year, it announced a capital campaign and plan to be in a larger facility by 2009.
For Pride this year, Open Arms will be welcoming Siyaya, which is coming to Minneapolis as part of its third US tour. This group of talented singers and dancers from South Africa incorporates AIDS education and awareness into its message. One of multiple concerts in the Twin Cities will take place June 29, 7 PM, at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
Open Arms of Minnesota
1414 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls.