What drew me to volunteer at Open Arms, more than a decade ago, was a combination of a wonderful sense of optimism about the future that was balanced with a very pragmatic approach to the work of the organization. I saw how Open Arms engaged the community and addressed an unmet need by preparing and delivering meals to people who were sick and might otherwise go hungry. In the process of meeting this basic human need, I also witnessed how Open Arms truly was changing the world.
Sometimes we can change the world and sometimes the world changes around us. Lately, the world has been changing around us. Open Arms does not operate in a separate reality. What happens in society and in the economy affects us all. As a stakeholder in Open Arms – be it as a client, volunteer, or donor – it’s important that you know what is happening at Open Arms during these challenging times.
Open Arms remains committed to preparing and delivering meals to people living with diseases including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, MS, and ALS. In fact, we anticipate serving another record-breaking number of meals in 2009. To make certain we can deliver on this commitment in the midst of an uncertain economy, the board of directors and staff have made some changes that we want you to know about.
We have cut our 2009 operating budget by $190,000 – nearly 12% of our budget – with the majority of these cuts related to staffing. Two staff members recently left Open Arms and their positions will not be replaced. Some staff members have taken a cut in salary and both salary and hiring freezes have been implemented. Benefits, such as a retirement match and dental insurance, have been suspended. In addition, we have made administrative cuts on everything from office supplies and postage to utilities.
We were diligent in our efforts to spare clients from dramatic changes, but we did need to make minor modifications to the program. To save over $30,000 we eliminated orange juice and yogurt, though we are looking at cost-effective ways to replace the vitamins that were lost with these reductions. Other than that, our home-delivered clients should notice no difference in the meals they receive from Open Arms.
There are things at Open Arms you can still count on during this period of uncertainty. Every day volunteers and staff cook, package, and deliver meals; and most days we get at least one new request for service. We continue, as best we can, to meet these client needs and to provide opportunities for volunteers to help us achieve our mission. And one other thing hasn’t changed: we continue to move ahead with our capital campaign to construct a new building and expand future programming to ensure that no one in the Twin Cities who is living with a chronic and progressive disease will have to go hungry.
Perhaps, most importantly, what hasn’t changed at Open Arms is our overwhelming sense of optimism that we continue to balance with a hands-on pragmatism to meet a most basic human need. Since our founding in 1986, we have all been in this work together. We are grateful to still be in this with all of you.