Open Arms of Minnesota

2023 In Review

St. Paul Kitchen and Campus

Year In Review, As Told On Social Media

Open Arms commenced what may be considered the most transformative year in its illustrious history with the inauguration of the state-of-the-art St. Paul Kitchen & Campus. Our second standalone facility was inaugurated with a bread-cutting ceremony in January and an open house in February. With the St. Paul Kitchen & Campus now fully operational, Open Arms went on to serve more clients and provide more meals than ever before throughout 2023. Annual events, such as Moveable Feast, Pop-Up Dinners, TOAST!, Turkey Drive, Volunteer Appreciation Week, and Holiday Treats, enjoyed all the fanfare of years past. Our CEO, Leah, marked her ten-year anniversary leading Open Arms by delivering the 12 millionth meal in our history. We even rolled out the first meals as part of our Cultural Meals Program, and expanded our delivery zone to include new geographic regions! There is a lot to celebrate from the past year. Here’s a look back at some of the hits and highlights, as they played out on social media. 

January

The long-awaited day is finally here! Our first volunteers have arrived at the St. Paul Kitchen & Campus and are hard at work preparing, packaging, and delivering #medicallytailoredmeals like they always do. And with that a new era at Open Arms begins!

Today we officially cut a loaf of bread to celebrate the opening of our St. Paul Kitchen & Campus with Mayor Melvin Carter, Councilmember Rebecca Noecker, and members of the Open Arms community! We’re so thrilled to call St. Paul home and look forward to connecting deeper with the community and serving more meals to more clients across the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.

On Saturday, a handful of Open Arms staff and a volunteer dressed up as vegetables and marched in the 2023 King Boreas Grande Day Parade to celebrate the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. We had so much fun meeting new people, handing out backpacks, and spreading the word about volunteer opportunities at our new St. Paul Kitchen & Campus!.

February

Thank you to everyone who made it out to our Open House Celebration! We had so much fun welcoming you into our brand-new St. Paul Kitchen & Campus and celebrating a new chapter of Open Arms with the whole community, with plenty of familiar, and new faces. We are so thrilled to call St. Paul home and excited for all we will be able to accomplish together in this new facility. We are so grateful for each and every one of you for the ways you support our mission to nourish our neighbors with critical illnesses. Whether you are a volunteer, donor, client, or partner, THANK YOU!

Open Arms is thrilled to introduce our 3 new Culturally Specific Culinary Consultants: Jamal Hashi (East African cuisine), Maiah Thao (Hmong cuisine), and Soleil Ramirez (Latin American cuisine)! They will help to develop accessible culturally appropriate, and authentically medically tailored meals for our clients. We’re so excited to welcome Jamal, Maiah, and Soleil to our team! 

Yesterday, WCCO-TV reporter Beret Leone visited Open Arms to cover a record-breaking day of deliveries in anticipation of a major snowstorm, with over 7,000 meals going out the door—twice the normal amount in a day! The story includes interviews with a volunteer and CEO Leah Hebert Welles, along with action shots from the busy morning. Watch the story here: Nonprofits work to provide meals for Minnesotans ahead of snow storm – CBS Minnesota (cbsnews.com)

March

On Tuesday, a group of Open Arms volunteers and staff attended #VolunteerismDay at the Minnesota State Capitol, organized by Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement (MAVA). We met with legislators to advocate for a bill designed to bring funds to nonprofits like Open Arms to build and expand effective volunteer engagement across Minnesota. We greatly appreciate MAVA’s partnership and thank them for the ways they support #volunteerism through their policy work and trainings!

Meals for older adults are seriously underfunded in Minnesota, which puts the health of our older neighbors at risk. Healthy meals help seniors stay in their homes and communities and prevent hospitalization and other consequences of malnutrition. That’s why we are asking our elected officials to support bills SF 2244 and HF 2523 to add $20 million for the state senior nutrition program to support senior nutrition in Minnesota, specifically to help fund medically tailored meals for our clients. These bills will be considered in the DHS Omnibus bill this Spring. Please contact your legislators over the next week and ask them to support SF 2244 and HF 2523! Check out the Call To Action linked below to learn more about this bill and how to get involved.

We had great time meeting with the teams of Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith, and Congresswoman Angie Craig to advocate for #MedicallyTailoredMeals to become a covered benefit in Medicaid and Medicare – ensuring equitable access – so our communities and economy can reap billions in savings. Our CEO Leah Hebert Welles and Chief External Affairs Officer Lisa Lane are in Washington DC today with the Food is Medicine Coalition to advocate for the inclusion of #medicallytailoredmeals in Medicaid & Medicare!

April

Welcome to Volunteer Appreciation Week! Throughout this week, we’ll be showing a whole lot of love, gratitude, and admiration to our wonderful community of volunteers! Open Arms benefits from the help of more than 3,500 volunteers who dedicate more than 60,000 hours of community service on a yearly basis. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of Open Arms and we could not carry out our mission and serve our clients without them. The party has officially started! It’s going to be an awesome week, so stay tuned for more Volunteer Appreciation FUN and special surprises on our social media channels throughout the week.

Courtesy of our friends at Cresa, check out this video for a behind-the-scenes tour of our St. Paul Kitchen & Campus and hear about what’s new! In this exciting video, Leah takes you on a journey through the heart of this uniquely designed facility, showcasing the incredible work that goes into producing thousands of delicious, medically tailored meals every week. With a team of dedicated volunteers and staff, cutting-edge technology, and a commitment to service, the St. Paul Kitchen & Campus has been a game-changer when it comes to meeting needs of our clients. Discover how Open Arms is making a real difference in the lives of so many. Better yet, join us for a volunteer shift today! https://fb.watch/pk6TGDJnee/

May

Our St. Paul Kitchen & Campus has been recognized by Finance & Commerce as a Top Project of 2022 in Minnesota! Congratulations to everyone who helped build this amazing facility including Pope Design Group, Greiner Construction, Loucks, Innovative Structural Solutions, P.A., and our friends John Theis and Nick Hasslen from Cresa! This facility has allowed us to greatly expand our capacity to serve medically tailored meals to more of our neighbors with life threatening illnesses and critical health issues! 

How’s this for some good news on a Fri-YAY! On Thursday, May 18 at Allianz Field, our community came together to raise nearly $500,000 – the most successful Moveable Feast we have ever had! All the funds raised will directly support over 50,000 medically tailored meals for our critically ill Minnesota neighbors and their loved ones. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in this year’s event! Our success is attributed to the passion, generosity, and kindness you bring to our community table every day. From the bottom of our hearts, we are tremendously grateful.

Thank you to the Minnesota Twins and St. Paul Saints Baseball for volunteering at Open Arms as part of their Week of Service! We greatly appreciate their commitment to giving back to the community and helping provide nourishing medically tailored meals for our neighbors with life threatening illnesses. This amazing group of players, coaches, and staff members helped package over 3,800 meals at our St. Paul Kitchen & Campus today. Safe to say, they knocked it out of the park! #TwinsInTheCommunity #FoodIsMedicine

June

#GrandOldDay returned on Sunday, and Open Arms was honored and proud to be a part of such a wonderful event! We had so much fun meeting the community, making new friends, and seeing some familiar faces while spreading the word about how we nourish our neighbors with life threatening illnesses and critical health issues. Thank you to the folks at Grand Old Day for putting on such a fun event. Enjoy some photos from our march down Grand Avenue as part of the Grand Old Day Parade!

We are excited to announce that the first culturally appropriate Hmong meals as part of our Cultural Meals Program were produced, packaged, and are set to be delivered to our clients today! With our client services, nutrition services, and kitchen teams working in tandem with Maiah Thao, our Hmong Culinary Consultant, the Hmong menu was developed over the past several months through surveys, focus groups, and tasting events. The program is currently serving 22 Hmong clients who are disproportionately impacted by severe illnesses and is expected to grow over the course of the year. Below is a shot of Andrew Mendez (Chief Program Officer), Stanley Hadiwibowo (Director of Food Services), and Matt Fodge (Menu Development Chef) with the first Hmong specific meals to come off the line at the Minneapolis Kitchen & Campus!

Open Arms was honored to be included in the announcement of a new state-funded grant program that will help pay for prepared meals provided by Minnesota nonprofits and tribes to people in need. Leah stood alongside Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and leaders from several nonprofit organizations and tribes to announce $3.3 million in new spending to fund the prepared meals grant program. Open Arms and other organizations will be eligible to receive the allocated funds later this year. We would like to express our gratitude to all the lawmakers and supporters who rallied behind this effort. We will proudly continue to serve our critically ill Minnesota neighbors with the medically tailored meals they need to aid in their healing process.

Thank you to Fox 9 News and reporter Maury Glover for covering the roll out of our cultural meals program and the debut of our new Hmong menu! Open Arms Minnesota embraces culturally appropriate meals (fox9.com)

We had so much fun marching in the Twin Cities Pride Parade yesterday and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community throughout the weekend. Thank you to everyone who joined us and made it such a special time, and thank you to Can Can Wonderland and Lunds & Byerlys for hosting us all weekend! Check out these photos from the festivities. Happy #Pride!

Thank you so much to our friends at Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Community for allowing us to move our client meal delivery process from our Minneapolis building to their parking lot this week while Bloomington Avenue gets resurfaced. It’s always so inspiring to see people and organizations in our community come together in times of need to help our clients with life threatening illnesses. We are so grateful! With St. Joan of Arc’s support, we were able to deliver 9,849 meals to 788 of our clients and their loved ones on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week!

July

It was an honor to host 25 Fellows of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders for a volunteer shift at our Minneapolis Kitchen & Campus today, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development UMN! The students – representing 16 countries in Africa – are currently taking part in a six-week Leadership Institute as part of the program. Leadership Institutes, held throughout the U.S. by colleges and universities, are comprehensive executive-style programs designed to build skills and empower Fellows to lead in their respective sectors and communities through the themes of Business, Civic Engagement, and Public Management. Congratulations to these young leaders on such a prestigious honor and thank you for supporting our community during your time in the Twin Cities!

Ten years ago today, Leah Hebert Welles embarked on her remarkable journey as the leader of Open Arms of Minnesota. As one of only a handful of chief executives in the organization’s illustrious 35+ year history, Leah has steered Open Arms through an extraordinary decade of growth and transformation. To commemorate her invaluable service, we are thrilled to announce that next week we will be hosting a celebration filled with memories and images from her decade at the helm of Open Arms. In addition, Leah will participate in 10 volunteer shifts over the next two weeks. Please join us in extending your warmest wishes and heartfelt congratulations to Leah for her remarkable tenure of leadership at Open Arms! Her dedication has been instrumental in the organization’s success. 

We are excited to announce that our first Pop-Up Dinner of the year was a tremendous success! Held last Thursday at the St. Paul Kitchen and Campus for the first time, the Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed Pop-Up Dinner included mouthwatering appetizers, a multi-course dinner, and dessert all made possible by our team of talented chefs! Proceeds from the event directly support free, medically tailored meals for our clients and their loved ones.

Congratulations to Leah on her remarkable 10-year journey at Open Arms! Alongside this incredible milestone, we are thrilled to announce another momentous achievement – today, Leah delivered the 12 millionth meal in Open Arms’ 35+ year history to Patience, a cherished client in her neighborhood of Golden Valley. To commemorate this special occasion, we invite you to join us in supporting Leah’s 10-Year Anniversary campaign. Your generosity can make an even greater impact, as all donations will be doubled! We’ve already surpassed our initial $5K goal, and now we’re aiming for an ambitious $12K target in honor of our 12 million meal milestone. Thank you for your support in making a difference in the lives of our clients and their loved ones. Use the link below to contribute and be a part of this heartwarming celebration! 

Open Arms extends our sincere congratulations to our friends at Pope Design Group (architect), Greiner Construction (contractor), Loucks (civil engineer), and Structural Solutions (structural engineer) on being named one of the recipients of Finance & Commerce’s Top Projects of 2022 for the construction of OUR St. Paul Kitchen and Campus! Finance & Commerce Top Projects annually honors the top construction projects in Minnesota, and we are THRILLED that our new building was chosen! The projects are judged for their degree of difficulty, creativity in design, innovative construction techniques, cooperation among contractors and management, and sustainability efforts. Congrats and thank you to all our partners and contributors who worked tirelessly to make our state-of-the-art facility in St. Paul a reality!

August

TOAST!, one of our most beloved traditions, returned with great excitement and fanfare as more than 350 volunteers and their loved ones descended on the St. Paul Kitchen and Campus for an evening of laughter, games, prizes, and of course, DELICIOUS FOOD! The annual event serves as a celebration of and thank you to our wonderful volunteers for all they do to support our mission throughout the year. This year’s theme, “The Perfect Pair,” set the stage for a friendly competition that honored the perfect union between Open Arms and our volunteers. The staff was divided into six different teams and were challenged to create tasty culinary pairings. While at the event, volunteers had the opportunity to taste each team’s dish before casting a vote for their favorite. When all the pairings were sampled and the polls closed, The Dip Sticks, pairing grilled carrots with whipped goat cheese and bacon jam, were crowned champion…in a landslide! Additionally, Take A Little Pita My Heart came away with the grand prize for best décor! Thank you to all who attended TOAST! It was the largest turnout in the history of the event! Check out this photo gallery from all the action from TOAST! 

September

Cupcakes for a Cause begins today! From Sept. 7-10, our friends at Lunds & Byerlys will generously donate $1 of each gourmet cupcake sale to support our Open Arms clients. All Lunds & Byerlys stores are participating, so grab yourself and a friend a tasty treat and support medically tailored meals for our neighbors facing life-threatening illnesses.

Have you heard about our Bread & Butter Club? It’s our awesome group of recurring donors who play a meaningful role in supporting medically tailored meals for our clients. By becoming a sustaining member, you will receive exclusive benefits for your generous recurring giving while also sending a message of LOVE to our critically ill neighbors.
Visit our website to learn more about our Bread & Butter Club. Every donation makes a difference in our clients’ lives. We hope you’ll join!

October

We are excited to announce the expansion of our delivery area! Starting today, Open Arms volunteers will deliver #medicallytailoredmeals to clients living in Spring Lake Park, Shoreview, North Oaks, White Bear Lake, Hugo, Mahtomedi, Gem Lake, Lake Elmo and Mounds View! This expansion allows us to serve even more of our Minnesota neighbors and their loved ones. 

Open Arms was recently featured on an episode of “Living Healthy and Aging Well” with Ken Haglind, including an interview with Lisa Lane, our Senior Director of Policy! Lisa and Ken discussed the ways that Open Arms is a beacon of hope and compassion, providing vital nourishment through medically tailored meals to individuals facing life-threatening illnesses and critical health issues, all at no cost to our clients. Listen to the episode here: https://www.am950radio.com/living-healthy-and-aging-well…/
 

November

Thank you Paul Folger for the wonderful piece on our YESvember efforts as a part of KSTP-TV’s Why We Give initiative! Please check it out here! Why We Give Archives – KSTP.com 5 Eyewitness News

How’s this for some good news heading into the weekend: Open Arms has been selected to be the official charity beneficiary of this year’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Turkey Day 5K! The race will take place on Thursday, Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving Day) at 8 a.m., taking off from 4th Street S and Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis. Stride with friends and family on the county’s biggest running day of the year and support Open Arms at the same time! The 5K distance on the beautiful downtown course is perfect for all ages and paces – joggers, walkers and strollers are welcome! Thank you to Twin Cities In Motion for supporting our clients in this fun way!! Head to the link below for more information and trot on turkeys!!!

In case you haven’t heard yet, singer-songwriter Willie Wisely Music will be hosting a “Show Of Thanks” benefitting Open Arms of Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 19 at the Granada Theater! Tickets are on sale now and are going fast!! The event, which will also feature performances by Davina Lozier (Davina & The Vagabonds) and Tommy Barbarella (Prince, Greazy Meal, Nick Jonas, Minnesota Orchestra), will directly support our mission to provide food as medicine, nourish our clients with medically tailored meals, and build community. Head to the link below to grab your tickets to what will be a wonderful evening of music and dining!

It was a PURPLE TUESDAY at Open Arms! A heartfelt thank you to Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah and running back Alexander Mattison for taking time out of their day to volunteer with us! Brian helped prepare and package meals in our kitchen, while Alex hit the road and delivered meals directly to our clients. It was an action-filled afternoon, and we couldn’t be more appreciative! From the entire Open Arms community, SKOL!

Wishing everyone a joyful Thanksgiving from our incredible Open Arms family! We had an absolute blast this morning as a fleet of volunteers came together to deliver Thanksgiving feasts!! A heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to each and every one of our generous donors who made Turkey Drive a success and enabled us to provide Thanksgiving meals to our clients and their loved ones. Immense gratitude to our extraordinary volunteers, whose dedication led to the preparation and delivery of a remarkable 6,570 Thanksgiving meals throughout November. And a special THANK YOU to our broader community, both near and far, for rallying behind our mission of nourishing Minnesotans facing life-threatening illnesses. The love, dedication, and support you’ve shown to Open Arms are truly humbling and bring us immense joy—not just during Thanksgiving, but every day. We count our blessings, and at the top of the list is everyone in our Open Arms community.

December

WHAT…A...NIGHT! Thank you to everyone who attended our first Drag Happy Hour in honor of World AIDS Day! Shout out to our fabulous Queens and our amazing DJ for putting on such a wonderful show and advocating for the work we do!!

How is this for some positive news heading into the weekend: Thanks to a massive response from our entire community, we surpassed our Turkey Drive goal of $168,00 by raising $172,390! With your support, we were able to fund the delivery of a grand total of 6,570 Thanksgiving meals over the course of YESvember. And how about those volunteers! Prior to Thanksgiving Day, 155 volunteer delivery drivers delivered 3,882 Thanksgiving meals. On Thanksgiving Day alone, 85 volunteer delivery drivers delivered a total of 2,688 Thanksgiving meals! Another round of applause for our entire community coming together to make this our largest YESvember to date!!

It’s one of our favorite days of the year! Each year during the holiday season, members of the Lunds & Byerlys team take over all of our volunteer duties for the morning and early afternoon. This year, the Lunds & Byerly’s Corporate Team, in their trademark green beanies, got to work in our kitchens, bakery, and on the road delivering meals directly to our clients! We are so thankful for our partnership and for all you do to support our critically ill Minnesota neighbors!

We are proud to release our fiscal year 2022-23 Impact Report! Please follow the link below to check out what was a transformative year for one of the nation’s leading organizations committed to providing clients food as medicine! https://www.openarmsmn.org/open-arms-impact-report-fy22-23/

Open Arms is proud to announce the release of our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page on our website. Designed as a resource for our entire community, the page includes our new DEI Statement, key definitions, and outlines details about our DEI Council. You can check it out below! https://www.openarmsmn.org/about-us/deioam/

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