Open Arms of Minnesota

A Better Place: Ed's Open Arms Experience

By Ashley Hackett, Open Arms Photojournalism Intern
Ed Lefto rocking chair+-0512

Ed L. has seen his share of difficulties, but none have come close to the day that he discovered he was HIV-positive. Fortunately, with the help of food from Open Arms, Ed is now able to live a more comfortable and sustainable life despite his illness.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Ed said. “Everything was falling apart for me, but Open Arms food and help from my social worker definitely changed my life.”

When Ed was diagnosed with HIV, his life was already at a crossroads: he broke up with his partner (who was also his business associate) and his financial situation slowly crumbled.

“I was pretty destitute,” he said. “There were some times when I was pretty hungry, and I didn’t have the money to buy food. But when I started getting Open Arms meals after I was diagnosed, it helped me so much to just have food on the table.”
Now, with help from Open Arms and programs like the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) and the Aliveness Project, Ed feels that his life has stabilized in more ways than one. With limited energy, he does the work that he can from home, and now works with wood and metal to create intricate and beautiful birdhouses for sale.

“I work on the birdhouses in the afternoons, usually. I make everything from scratch,” Ed explained. “I’ve been doing it for 15 or 20 years by now, and I do some art fairs.”
Amidst a house full of vibrant plants and birdhouses, one house in particular draws the eye.

“I made this one in the month after I found out I was diagnosed with HIV. All of my feelings were just so crazy, and I had so much going on in my head that I just had to get it out,” Ed said, pacing with sudden emotion. “I’m never gonna sell this one. It’s a reminder to me that I’m in a better place.

And Ed does seem to be in a better place now; although fatigue often wears him down, he has the joy of his art and the support of the Open Arms and HIV/AIDS communities on his side. “It’s helped me to know that with this food, there’s somebody helping,” he said. “With Open Arms, I know that there’s somebody out there who cares.”

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