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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Project Open Hand

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: AIDS, Congregate Meals, Food, Food Programs, Health, Meals on Wheels

Mission: Project Open Hand’s mission is to improve healthy outcomes and quality of life by providing nutritious meals to the sick and vulnerable, educating and caring for our community. Every day, we prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 400 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain our clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of old age. We serve San Francisco and Alameda Counties, engaging more than 125 volunteers every day to nourish our community.

Results: In 2012, Project Open Hand served our 16th millionth meal!

Target demographics: provide nutritious meals to our sick and vulnerable neighbors

Direct beneficiaries per year: more than 8,000 neighbors battling critical illness and the health challenges of aging

Geographic areas served: San Francisco and Alameda Counties

Programs: 2,500 nutritious meals a day, fresh,healthy groceries and nutrition education

Community Stories

42 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered in the kitchen here for 4 years. Their mission to feed the sick is what got me involved initially. But what I like most about POH now as a volunteer/donor is that they make the most out of their resources. Nothing seems to go to waste (every stem, peel, or core of a vegetable ends up in a dish, in stock, or used to make compost), and they keep us volunteers busy with meaningful work (if they hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten up and hauled myself in there every Saturday morning for 4 years). I feel good that my time and donations are being used to their fullest.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Project Open Hand weekly for a year and a half. Those shifts, mainly in the kitchen, but a few in the grocery, are among the most satisfying experiences of my life. The dedication to helping the community by providing meals with with love is inspiring and not just a tag line. I can’t tell you how many times I saw Chef Adrian and the team correct someone’s slicing/chopping technique or stop the packaging process to ensure that the meals were as beautifully presented as they were prepared. I cherish the contribution I was allowed to make at POH and miss the team.

Michael H.11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at POH for 21 years. I came in to work off a ticket. It was the perfect match for me and I never left. Feeding sick folks and seniors. Those are my people. I have met some amazing folks, both volunteers and staff. I feel respected and appreciated. We really are making food with love.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered here for over 28 years, and I truly love this organization. It truly serves meals with love: high-quality, nutritious meals, prepared by talented and dedicated chefs. It began serving a community who was marginalized by society, and has never lost its heart. I am so glad to be a small part of what they do. And they are exceedingly good to and express their gratitude to their volunteers, which is why so many of us we continue volunteering year after year.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Project Open Hand truly is an institution that takes care of people in need of nourishing food. In the four years that I’ve been volunteering, I’ve served seniors and military veterans. I even have a friend who used POH service when he went on surgery.
I cut and prepped food in the kitchen along with other awesome volunteers. With the increasing gap between the rich and the poor in San Franco, the city will need more Project Open Hand volunteers!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

amazing and lovely work that helps our most vulnerable

4 Nurani M.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been very blessed/very lucky to receive my daily meals made with love, 7 days a week while I recover from debilitating heart attacks. The volunteers who I see daily are wonderful!!! They always say hello to me by name, have a smile and kind words. I can not express enough what a great feeling that is. Let me also say the food is delicious, nutritious and I usually have enough left over for another. Thank you God for Project Open Hand. I just love them~ Sumiyati M~

3 Andrew81

Donor

Rating: 5

A few years ago I decided to clean up and rationalize my charitable giving. While much of it goes to national level charities. I wanted a third to go to local. Project Open Hand is one of the three that I decided to give to - its mission to feed those who can't and are most needy in San Francisco is a truly righteous mission - they let me, by proxy, do what I believe I should be doing - helping those who can't help themselves who the city have forgotten. Join me in lending a helping hand

2 Liz_57

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Project Open Hand is a great place to volunteer. I have volunteered several times in the large industrial kitchen and grocery center chopping veggies and packaging food for the thousands of meals delivered each day to sick people in need. Each 4 hour shift includes a wholesome and delicious meal served before work. First timers are treated to an orientation that explains the organization's history and the current operational workings. They use hundreds of volunteers each day. Come by yourself or with a group. Feel the satisfaction of helping and the camaraderie of working with these awesome people.

2 Michelle276

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization is so well run that I'm not patting myself on the back for volunteering, my clients are doing it for me. Truly, I get such a wonderful kick in the pants each Sunday from the seniors at the Aquatic Center that I can honestly say they do more for me than I do for them. I've also been known to chop veggies at night at the kitchen - also great stuff - a way to meet with the wonderfully varied citizens of SF - most of whom I would never meet otherwise. Their mission has been solid from the outset but more and more science/health care is saying good, nutritious food is the best medicine. It makes all of us chop onions with a smile instead of a tear!

2 Misty11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

have been with Project Open hand for almost two years, I would be there a lot more, if i could get there! I love it, I love the volunteer services personnel, they rock, :)

Comments ( 1 )

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Amira Barger 10/30/2014

Thanks, Misty! It's volunteers like you that make POH such a great place.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering as a special events volunteer for the last 3 years and I love it. I always have a lot of fun at the events and i wish I could do more. The staff and volunteer coordinators are always very helpful and supportive, and treat their volunteers very well. Whenever I have a chance to visit their facilities and kitchens everyone I meet is very friendly and they always have a smile on their face.
I enjoy volunteering for Project Open Hand and I wish my schedule would allow me to be more involved.

Comments ( 1 )

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Amira Barger 10/30/2014

Thanks for this great review and for volunteering with us! - Maria Stokes, Communications Director

2 Carol175

Client Served

Rating: 5

Amazing work these people are doing wonderful kind hearted. Thank you for everything

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with this organization for 3 years. Fantastic idea, using fresh ingredients to make healthy food daily for people in need. Very nice and dedicated group of people -- and a great organization to volunteer with.

4 Michael286

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

From 1997-2009 I had the honor & the pleasure to be the Executive Chef @ Project Open Hand. I saw daily the great work this agency does in the San Francisco/ East Bay communities in which we served. Food is medicine and you only have to watch a POH client get better and stronger by eating well. POH takes care of many of the most vulnerable clients in our community. They do it with compassion, nutrition, and a sense of "family." By combining the efforts of volunteers, donors, staff and client participation, we can take care of our "village" together. If you want to give some of you're hard earned money to a charity that truly supports those in need, you will find the money is well spent here @ POH. They walk the walk & talk the talk.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been HIV+ for over 35 years now and have often found myself living on disability income which is not much even when it's really good. Project Open Hand - both now and in the past - has been a really great help when I needed it. Their food is terrific and their frozen/fresh meals are extraordinary.

I don't know where I'd be without them. Standing in line at the local soup kitchen, I suppose.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My wife and I have been delivering meals in the Tenderloin for Project Open Hand (POH) for nearly 29 years, just one year less that Project Open Hand's inception by Ruth Brinker. During that time period, we have seen how its meals have helped its clients survive and how our simple meet-and-greet interactions have put smiles on their faces and a heartfelt "Thank You" from their lips. We would not have put in these many years of volunteering for POH if we did not believe in its worth to the people who had AIDS or were HIV positive and who bore the social stigma of the disease. We are also ongoing contributors to POH, knowing that, although volunteering is helpful to the program, money is also necessary to keep its services operational. My wife and I are proud to be of what little service we have been to POH and hope others will join us in keeping this great program operating and expanding to meet the needs of the community.

Chuck and Gail Roberts

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have lived in San Francisco since 1967 (the Summer of Love!) and, for a time in the late 80s was a hospice volunteer. Three of my clients had AIDS in those early days of the disease, and they received meals from Project Open Hand. At that time it was a dinner and a sandwich and a side dish for later. The visits by the POH volunteer -- and me -- were the highlights of those people's days! Worthy of getting up and getting dressed too! In '95 I worked for a time as a Telefunder in the basement of the Trinity Church where Ruth Brinker cooked up those delicious meals. It's a wonderful organization, full of loving people. Meals With Love indeed.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

POH brought me dinners for the 6 hardest months of my life while I was receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. The dinners were healthy and good and low in fat and dairy designed and recommended for people who have had breast cancer.
They took care of me and I felt the love.
Now I am a donor in their Supper Club, a monthly giving program.

2

Client Served

Rating: 1

I have been a happy client of POH for two years with no issues and it was a service which was tremendously beneficial to my health and I'm grateful for that support. Sadly I cannot say the same going forward. POH has embarked on very restrictive new guidelines as of July 2014 designed to greatly reduce their client base. I am a victim of these guidelines. Even though I have HIV and HepC and several other conditions including mental health issues, I was declined renewal. I was denied an appeals process and told by counselors that POH is "not an HIV services organization"; "that my receiving continued services might deny service to someone who was really sick"; that "sacrifices had to be made"; and in regard to my financial circumstances "we are not interested in that". It was cold, uncaring and wounded me greatly. I'm not working, my SSI case is pending and therefore I have no income other than odd jobs. POH has been my main food source and thanks to these new guidelines and callous attitudes I will now be food insecure which will undoubtedly take a toll on my health. I was given what they are calling "assistance in transition" which amounted to nothing more than hastily printed info on other food pantries in SF. I don't qualify for 95% of these due to either age, ethnic or zip code restrictions. Those for which I might qualify have long waiting lists and in certain cases those waiting lists are closed. POH has turned its back on their original Mission to serve and help those with HIV. I'm disgusted, dismayed and very disenchanted. While they are trying to paint these changes as "expanded services, they are anything but. The truth is they are trying to rid themselves of their HIV clients without regard to harming them in the process. It's truly sad to see what was once a great bastion of care for those with HIV turn their backs on that same community in solely because they believe there is more money in other diseases. I have no idea where my nutrition will come from going forward. Thanks POH for help in the past. Going forward I have no reason to support you any longer.

Comments ( 2 )

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Amira Barger 10/10/2014

We have a responsibility to our community to adapt our services to continue to serve those who need us the most - neighbors with critical illness who can benefit the most from the nutritious, life-sustaining meals that Project Open Hand makes. While we will continue to serve people living with HIV?AIDS, who have acute symptoms, we have a responsibility to serve people with other serious illnesses who can benefit from good nutrition. Continually making best use of our resources is critical to the sustainability of our agency - to ensure we are here for another 30 years. By continuing to expand who we serve, we are able to access new funding opportunities, which can strengthen our agency. This ultimately benefits all of our clients and our entire community. Looking ahead, as our neighbors with HIV continue to age and face a growing number of health challenges, we want to be there and ready to serve them when they need us most. - Maria Stokes, Project Open Hand Communications Director

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Amira Barger 10/10/2014

Rin, Here is a list of food resources and other community services that may be able to assist: http://www.freeprintshop.org/

1 SFScuba

Client Served

Rating: 5

They have helped me in so many different ways and have helped so many over the years!

Previous Stories
2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Since the early 1980's, when the AIDS epidemic was in its' infancy, a little old lady (Ruth Brinker) had a vision that to this day grows with love. I saw many of my friends and coworkers pass and the vision that POH had was one of caring, compassion and nutrition. I have met many, many people through this agency and they have become friends to this day. I classify myself as a client served as my partner of 23 years, who passed in 2011, used POH since his diagnosis in 1996. There are no words that can express the amount of gratitude I have for this agency. It is unbelievable that the heart of POH is its' volunteers. It is humbling to know this. I will forever be grateful for the lessons this agency has and continues to teach me on this journey.

1 William38

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wonderful place to get services & volunteer. Greatest thing is it is a place great for gay HIV+ men.

Previous Stories
2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My partner & I are low income & HIV+. These days especially it can be quite difficult to pay bills plus get food on the table. Thank God for Project Openhand! They cater to gay, positive, low income people. They are friendly & very helpful. If you can't get to them, they will deliver meals to you.
Also if you are a looking for a place to volunteer, Project Openhand is the perfect place. They have no attitude. They are so nice. & they serve a clientele that is in great need & extremely grateful.

3 Aloysius W.

Client Served

Rating: 1

Beginning in June 2014 POH tightened up on its eligibility requirements for HIV/Aids/Hep C clients. I was denied services there after receiving meals for the past 10 years. I can't believe the 'Stepford Wife' type of reviews on this site. Alot of clients have fallen thru the cracks there recently. To share your stories or to get more info please email me = weathersaloysius@aol.com Thanks!

2 Carole F.

Donor

Rating: 5

I LOVE Project Open Hand! The true heart of this organization is LOVE. LOVE is a major ingredient in the food prepared for the Clients, it is delivered by volunteers who give of themselves, it is the major engine powering the staff along to get the job done efficiently and effectively, and it is what the Clients give back many times over. LOVE is what POH is all about!

2 Don_26

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As you all know that I am a client and a volunteer for Project Open Hand If it was not for POH and the great services that they offer who knows if I would be on this earth.

Not only does Project Open Hand provide Meals with Love but they provide a unconditional kind of love nutritionally as well as mentally. There be days that I am down mentally because of some reason like tcell levels are down or my viral load is up. Sometimes its about little petty selfish things that normally would not bother any other individual or individuals.

All I have to so is walk across the threshold of 730 Polk Street and there is a overwhelming warmth that goes over me that erases all my pains. The new friendships that I make everyday with open hand just makes my decision to be there tell the end more stronger. Also the mission statement " Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to seniors and the critically ill." follows a mission statement that was instilled into me of "Service above Self" comes from Rotary International.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Several years ago I was visiting San Francisco and saw an advertisement for Project Open Hand and I was told that it was an organization that feeds the hungry and volunteers can work by chopping vegetables. I thought then that if I lived here, I would like to chop vegetables. Well, I have now lived here for a year and I have been volunteering for 10 months. I have had many more opportunities besides chopping vegetables and I know that working at POH has done more for me than I have done for them.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Project Open Hand is a great asset to the communities of San Francisco & Alameda Counties. I worked for POH as the Executive Chef for 12 years (1997-2009). I saw first hand what the Volunteers and Staff do everyday. This amazing non-profit was started by a retired grandmother who cared enough to make sure people who were sick had a hot nutritious meal. She knew that food created health. She knew that food =love. And everyday since volunteers and staff start early in the morning and work until 8 pm at night to fulfill Ruth's mission. providing a meal with love. Today over 2,600 meals a day are produced out of our Polk Street kitchen. Though I no longer stir the pots @ Project Open Hand, I always remember this as the best job I ever had. Because at the end of each day I knew that we made a difference in the community. POH is LOVE.

Comments ( 1 )

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Amira Barger 10/28/2013

Thanks, Chef Mike!

Alissa L.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering at Project Open Hand because I wanted to give back to the community that I live and work in. I didn't really know what to expect when I walked into the Wednesday orientation meeting and was blown away by the volunteer coordinators. They are professional, passionate, helpful, friendly, and you can tell they love their job. I volunteer for night meal prep and work with a great group of people. It's only a small chunk of time every week and I look forward to the nights I volunteer at Project Open Hand.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered in the kitchen for three years at Project Open Hand. It is truly a wonderful, welcoming community for everyone who is involved - from volunteers and donors to clients and staff. It is so rewarding to be part of an organization that provides neighbors in need with delicious, nutritious food that heals both body and soul.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered at POH for over 6 years. To start with, I wanted to get a distraction from work and home. It turned out to be a great place to meet new friends and enjoy the friendly staff. In addition, I felt very grateful when I was helping the clients directly at the grocery center. I put my actions in the past since I stopped volunteering to go on a long travel. When I settle back in San Francisco, I'll be happy to go volunteer again at the grocery center to work with Marcus, Sarah and Rachel!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I helped out with the Senior Lunch Program which served lunch to the elderly in the basement of a neighborhood church. Even more delightful than the other volunteers I worked with, were the elderly folks themselves. Most of them shared fascinating stories from thier lives while they ate a delicious and nutritious meals. It was apparent to me that these folks spend a lot of time in isolation. I believe it was a beneficial time for both volunteers and participants as no one left that basement without taking away something more than they had before arriving.

John202

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I've been volunteering at P.O.H for over 2 1/2 yrs. I like volunteering there because of certain volunteers, are there, now. I must admit, I feel more comfortable, at P.O.H, then I did last year!!!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Good vibes and good people...POH is a fulfilling place to volunteer....

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at Project OpenHand for about 12 years. I work in the kitchen doing prep work
and on the "line" putting the cooked food into containers for clients. During my 12 years there I have met some wonderful people, both employees and workers. I started giving money every month to
POH and finally decided to see where my money was going, so I volunteered. I figured I'd be there for a
while then move on to something else. That was 12 years ago. Their slogan, "Meals with Love" is
really quite literal. Some love goes into every meal that's prepared and it shows, both in the quality of
the meals and the care with which the meals are packaged. Great care goes into not only making meals
nutritious and delicious but making them look as delicious as they taste.

Meals with Love. Indeed.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After learning about Project Open Hand through the documentary "We Were There," I began to volunteer three years ago. I feel so proud to participate in such a long-standing, intelligent, and downright kind organization. It truly reflects the community values I cherish, not just on paper, but in its day to day action. Volunteering there helps me get grounded in the basics of life and has helped me get to know a wide array of lovely clients, volunteers, and staff members.