Open Arms of Minnesota

Cooking for Kids: A New Year's Day Volunteer Opportunity from our Executive Director

A Volunteer Opportunity from our Executive Director, Tim Reardon:

Dear Friends,

I know this is one of the crazy busiest times of the year, but I’d like to pitch an idea and ask for your time, talent and treasure to make this idea come to life.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has gripped me and almost everyone I’ve talked to about it. While we can’t change federal gun laws overnight or bring these kids and adults back to life, there is something we know how to do — and that is cook and bake.

Imagine if, on the first day students return to school after winter break ends, they are greeted by signs that say “welcome back” and “we support safe schools” and a nutritious baked treat from Open Arms — and by the volunteers and faith community members who baked the goods. We could also put a yummy baked treat in each teacher’s lounge to show our appreciation for the teachers and educators who care for and prepare our children to be productive members of our community — and keep them safe, day after day.

We’ve reached out to people in Newtown, Conn., and we’ve been told that the national outpouring of support is overwhelming the community. So we will focus our efforts locally in the Phillips neighborhood and Northside schools. We are working with my former colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Education, who are partnering with us to ensure that the products we produce fit the new federal regulations on school food.

Because there is so much support right now, I’m thinking we should consider timing the delivery of the goods for when students return to school from winter break. And, since Open Arms of Minnesota is already closed on New Year’s Day, we could utilize our facilities without interfering with the production of client meals. Most people don’t work that day and so may be available to volunteer.

To tie this effort to the profound story of Rachel in The Book of Jeremiah, we could call our baked goods, “Rachel’s Treats.”

The only thing keeping us from doing this project is support: We need money to fund the ingredients and volunteers to bake the treats and decorate delivery bags.

Open Arms of MN has the commercial kitchen, the expertise in food safety, the infrastructure to sign up volunteers and a website that can host the information. Plus, 26 years ago, we were founded on the passion of “one act of kindness” that started in the kitchen of Bill Rowe and grew over time into the amazing organization we are today. Bill Rowe dared to put his compassion into action; he was unwilling to sit back and do nothing while his friends with HIV/AIDS were unable to cook for themselves and, without proper nutrition, succumbed to this horrible virus. That one act of kindness has multiplied and now inspires 1,900 volunteers each year to contribute the equivalent of 27 full-time staff hours a year. Since 1986, they have helped us cook and deliver more than 3 million meals to the door step of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, ALS and MS. In keeping with the spirit of our founder, and the soul of our mission, we can continue “opening our arms” to respond to people in the most vulnerable times of their lives.

So, let me know if you are:

1. Willing to help make this happen,
2. Willing to donate your time on New Year’s Day starting at 1:00 p.m.,
3. Willing to contribute to offset the cost of pulling off this event,
4. Willing to “sponsor” this effort as an organization

Imagine if all the faith communities in our community mentioned this at their services over the holidays, the volunteer networks of corporations spread the word within their respective organizations over the next week, and together we recruited volunteers, donations, sponsorship opportunities and willingness to make this happen.

And then imagine that this isn’t just a one-time effort, but that every fall on the first day of school, students and educators are greeted at the door of their school by smiling volunteers with signs welcoming them to school and supporting safety — and by yummy treats.

We envision asking each school that participates to invite the students to give back by decorating bags we use to deliver food, by planting seeds for our farm, by helping to tend our urban garden or by inviting us back to learn more about the importance of nutrition.

This is the kind of community I want to be part — and all it takes is one act of courageous kindness to spark it into action.

Will you join us?

Rabbi Michael Latz from Shir Tikvah Synagogue said that he believes that people are (pardon the analogy): “… hungry to do something about the grief they feel about the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School.” He thinks there will easily be hundreds of people who will volunteer for this, and he envisions families being able to decorate delivery bags. He will be pitching it to his congregation and has already pledged donations to get the movement started.
If this idea resonates with you, let me know.

Open Arms has the organizational capacity and expertise to make it happen. Now all we have to do is tap the abundance of this amazing community to make this dream come true.

Can we translate our compassion into action? Let me know!

Tim Reardon
Executive Director
[email protected]

Event Details:

Cooking for Kids Sake

1 p.m. on January 1, 2013

Open Arms of Minnesota
2500 Bloomington Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

RSVP Today!

To volunteer at the event, please RSVP with Volunteer Coordinator Pete Fischer at [email protected]. If you have questions about the event or would like to make a donation, please contact Executive Director Tim Reardon at 612-767-7344 or [email protected].

Partners in this effort to date include:

Shir Tikvah Synagogue, Plymouth Congregational Church, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Sample bulletin or pulpit announcement:

Cooking for Kids Sake

Open Arms of Minnesota is partnering with faith communities to organize a New Year’s Day volunteer effort called “Cooking for Kids Sake” to support local educators and students in response to the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary. Volunteers will gather at Open Arms at 1:00 p.m. on January 1, 2013. Volunteers will bake nutritious treats, (named “Rachel’s Treats” after the grieving woman in the book of Jeremiah who was inconsolable because her “children were no more”). On the first day back from winter break, volunteers will greet students at local schools with “Rachel’s Treats” — and a package of goodies also will be left in the teacher’s lounge. Donors are sought to fund the ingredients and underwrite the costs. For more information on how to give your time or treasure, go to

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