Leah Hebert Welles Celebrates 10 Years At Open Arms
Leah Hebert Welles took the helm of Open Arms of Minnesota in 2013. She came to Open Arms well established within the nonprofit sector, having served in leadership roles at multiple community-based human service organizations including Pro-Choice Resources, Midwest Health Center for Women, and myHealth for Teens and Young Moms. Armed with years of experience advocating for women’s reproductive rights and youth healthcare, Leah set her sights on a new, albeit not entirely unfamiliar, form of service-driven work. In July of 2013, she was named the Executive Director of Open Arms of Minnesota – taking the reins of the Upper Midwest’s sole organization dedicated to nourishing critically ill people with medically tailored meals. She is just the fourth Executive Director in the organization’s history.
In the past decade, Leah has played an instrumental role in propelling Open Arms into a new chapter. When her tenure began, Open Arms was a $3 million organization serving 1,800 clients, caregivers, and their loved ones in 2013 and has now blossomed into a $12 million organization reaching 4,500 individuals with its programming. Open Arms’ annual meal count has soared from 440,000 to more than 1 million, while the number of dedicated volunteers has exceeded 15,000. Under Leah’s leadership, the organization added a second kitchen and campus in St. Paul, implemented a shipping program, expanded its Open Farms program, and oversaw a staff that saw significant growth, expanding from less than 30 staff members a decade ago to more than 90 today.
When Leah began her Open Arms journey, she was intrigued by the question: What is the secret ingredient of Open Arms? Reflecting on this back then, she wrote:
“Perhaps the secret ingredient is the hope we send out the door with every delivery of food. It might also be our drive toward a world where people won’t go hungry, as we do our part to nourish social change. Maybe the secret ingredient is wrapped up in the spirit of our volunteers and the sense of community they bring to this beautiful building. Or perhaps the secret ingredient is related to how we ask nothing in return from our clients, removing instead of erecting any barriers to their access to our services.”
We think Leah has discovered that the secret ingredient to our success and it’s a combination of elements. It’s the dedicated staff who work tirelessly every day putting our clients and their loved ones at the center of every decision. It’s scores of committed volunteers who brave blizzards, searing heat, and road construction to ensure meals are prepped, packed, and delivered on time. It’s community partners and donors who step up time after time to ensure we have the funds needed to provide what our clients need. And it’s a robust list of referral partners who understand that food really is medicine, and that Open Arms is a critical link in the health and well-being of their patients.
On behalf of our staff and Board of Directors, we extend heartfelt congratulations to Leah and thank her for her leadership, compassion, and focus leading us to strategic growth and a new chapter.
When you see her in either Minneapolis or St. Paul over the next couple of weeks please extend your warmest wishes for her anniversary and congratulate her on a decade of leading Open Arms. Leah will be working in the kitchen and on delivery to honor her tenth anniversary with ten hours of hands-on service—be sure to stop by, say hello and reminisce on a great ten years.
In recognition of Leah’s TEN years of dedicated service, a group of current and former Open Arms Board of Directors has asked to generously match every donation to the organization, dollar for dollar, throughout the next month (up to $5,000)! If you feel inclined to join in the spirit of this milestone, kindly consider making a gift to support client meals in any increment of $10 – the equivalent of providing a nourishing meal for one client.
Stay tuned to Open Arms’ social media channels throughout the week for special tribute posts to Leah and be on the lookout for her “in the field” as she takes part in 10 various volunteer hours over the next two weeks.