Lending a Hand

By Doug Myers, Senior Director

douglas_myersLCI works with a number of nonprofits such as City CarShare and the Museum of the African Diaspora to raise their public profile and promote their mission and benefits to the communities they serve. We also work with larger corporations like Walmart and California Bank & Trust to highlight their philanthropic and volunteer efforts. While we pride ourselves on our work for these organizations, we rarely get to see their intricate operations and what makes them tick. Recently, the entire LCI team had the opportunity to volunteer for Project Open Hand, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization. In the process, we learned more about this unique and vital nonprofit that’s doing such good work in the Bay Area. Project Open Hand, which provides meals to seniors and the critically ill, was founded in 1985 by San Francisco grandmother and retired food-service worker, Ruth Brinker, during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. (In fact, LCI President David Landis was one of the organization’s first volunteers.) After seeing a close friend with AIDS suffer from malnutrition, Ruth knew she needed to feed her those she loved and cared about. She began by preparing meals in her kitchen for neighbors with AIDS and bringing the food directly to their homes along with a friendly smile. With this, Project Open Hand was born.

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Project Open Hand continues to serve people with HIV/AIDS and has also expanded to feed seniors and people fighting cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other serious illnesses. Every day, the organization prepares 2,500 nutritious meals and provides 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain people as they battle serious illnesses, isolation or the health challenges associated with old age. Each day, more than 125 volunteers work at Project Open Hand for structured settlement buyout – my colleagues and I had the opportunity recently to be part of that group. Our day began with an educational tour of the facility which spans an entire city block on Polk Street in the Tenderloin. It houses a vast kitchen, warehouse area, grocery storage space and dining room for volunteers – not to mention office space for executives and volunteers alike.

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After our tour, we got down to work…cutting, chopping and peeling vegetables including bell peppers, tomatoes and butternut squash that would soon become part of the day’s 2,500 meals. (Slicing and dicing the squash proved to be the most challenging!) We came up with our own system by leveraging the strengths of our team to make the most of our time (and produce the greatest results). It also gave us the opportunity to chat with other employees and volunteers, as well as each other – a pleasure that’s hard to come by during a typically busy work day. In the end, we felt a true sense of accomplishment in our work and felt as though we were doing something truly worthwhile with our time: lending a hand and making a difference for our community.

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Have you had a similar rewarding experience recently? We’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly at [email protected].

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3 Comments

  1. Sean Reply

    Doug, Thanks for the blog. This was an amazing experience. I recommend anyone and everyone to volunteer at a food related non-profit. Sean

  2. David Landis Reply

    Doug, thank you so much for evangelizing on behalf of Project Open Hand. I have been proud to serve this organization since 1988 and am even more proud to have re-joined their Board this past month. Volunteering is critical to being a part of society and those organizations, like Project Open Hand, that address the widening gap between rich and poor, are to be applauded. Cheers, David Landis

  3. David Cumpston Reply

    The opportunity to support such a worthwhile organization was a highlight of my year and I look forward to getting back in that kitchen to chop more vegetables, sort more items in the pantry or simply lend a hand wherever it’s needed most. I encourage anyone looking for ways to give back to consider Project Open Hand. Regards, David