Non-profit Profile: Open Arms of Minnesota

There are many organizations that help get food to people – such as Store to Door and Meals on Wheels.  Today’s organization is focusing their efforts on delivering nutritious meals to those suffering from chronic and life threatening illnesses.

A single act of kindness planted the seed for the organization that became Open Arms of Minnesota.  In 1986, Bill Rowe cooked a meal in his apartment and delivered it to a friend with HIV/AIDS.  His kindness evolved as he cooked for more people and the cooking moved from Bill’s apartment into a church basement, then another building in Minneapolis, and finally to their new facility in 2010.  About 6 years ago, they also expanded to include people impacted by other diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

Open Arms of Minnesota is the only non-profit in the state that cooks and delivers free meals for people with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, ALS, cancer, and MS as well as their caregivers and dependent children.  About 700 meals are cooked, packed and delivered each week by about 1900 volunteers.  In 2011, Open Arms prepared and delivered more than 420,000 meals.  Each week, their clients receive five days worth of meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Their belief is that eating delicious, nutritious meals helps make the medicines and treatments more effective, so individuals are able to lead healthier, more independent lives.  Susan Pagani, Communications Director at Open Arms of Minnesota, reminded me how much an illness can take over a person’s life.  ”Simple things like grocery shopping and cooking become a burden.”  Open Arms helps their clients improve their quality of life by removing that burden.

A chef and dietitian work together to create a variety of menus that are delicious and meet the needs of our clients’ diseases.  The food is cooked on site and includes local, organic ingredients wherever possible.  They recently planted a two-acre, organic garden that produces more than 20,000 pounds of organic produce.

In 2010, the organization relocated to a new larger facility and also expanded their programs.  Open Arms partners with nine Meals on Wheels programs in Minneapolis to cook meals for senior citizens in the community.  These meals are then delivered by Meals on Wheels volunteers.  During the summer months, Open Arms partners with other local organizations to offer free lunches and healthy snacks to neighborhood school age children.  They also have a program where neighborhood kids plant and harvest vegetables from the Open Arms garden and use them while cooking meals for Open Arms clients.  This allows them to learn about growing and cooking healthy meals while they make a difference to others in their community.

How can you help?

Volunteer are an integral part of the work that Open Arms does.  They have opportunities to cook, bake, deliver, plant and harvest food.  The first step toward any volunteer experience with Open Arms is to sign up for a volunteer orientation session; you can find a list of upcoming orientation sessions here.

Open Arms also has a variety of opportunities for monetary donations directly on their website.  In addition, there are some in-kind donation opportunities, such as Ensure drinks, cereal, grocery bags, coffee, office supplies, and gardening supplies.  You can visit their website for a full wish list.

You can learn more about Open Arms of Minnesota on their website, openarmsmn.org.  You can also follow their blog, connect with them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

This post was written by Stacy Pearson and originally published on the Blogunteer.

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