Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless believes that every Minnesotan should be free from hunger and homelessness. We make an impact by partnering with those who serve people in need, growing donor engagement and increasing awareness.
Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless was founded in 1986 by employees of the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training (now known as the Department of Employment and Economic Development).
The impetus for creating Open Your Heart was a statewide drive by the department to raise money and food for Minnesota’s food shelves during November 1985. Led by Commissioner Joe Samargia, the department organized a statewide drive to raise the public’s awareness of the needs of the local food shelves. Commissioner Samargia enlisted the services of Giovanna D’Agostino (Mama D), a Minneapolis restaurateur known for feeding U of M students in her restaurants, and a local band as part of this public awareness campaign. A steering committee of department employees then developed the food drive into a competition among the department’s offices around the state.
With the success of this department-wide drive, the committee considered the possibility of raising funds year round. The committee thought an annual campaign encouraging donations via payroll deductions would be more effective than regular campaigns throughout the year for food and money.
The idea was supported by Governor Rudy Perpich and his commissioners. His commissioners included Attorney General Mike Hatch, Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, who was the regulator for state employee fundraising at that time.
Department employee Michael Fratto recruited the state-wide presidents of the three largest state employee bargaining units to serve as the incorporating board. These representatives and bargaining units included: H. Glenn Littler, President of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council Six, Mike Haney, President of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE); and Gene Aune, President of the Middle Management Association (MMA). This incorporating board, with the help of department staff, produced the necessary documents to incorporate Open Your Heart as a not-for-profit organization and to receive the proper Internal Revenue Service classification.
Open Your Heart was incorporated on April 21, 1986 as a non profit corporation under Minnesota statutes 309 and 317 (Chapter 317 was later repealed and replaced by chapter 317A). The organization has an Internal Revenue Classification of 501(c)(3) and is registered with the Minnesota Attorney General as a Registered Combined Charitable Organization (RCCO).
After the incorporation was complete, the Department of Jobs and Training filed campaign pledge forms it to the Department of Finance for the first payroll deduction. In July, many other state agencies submitted their employees’ pledge forms to augment the first Open Your Heart campaign.
Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless raised approximately $30,000 in its first year, and made its first grant to the Emergency Fund Service in the amount of $26,000. The Emergency Fund Service eventually became the Minnesota Food Bank Network.
That fall, Open Your Heart was given permission to pass out pledge cards in all state agencies and the University of Minnesota. This first full campaign raised $221,489. As a result, the Board made 19 grants totaling $150,000.
Up until this point, there was no central location to complete the work of the organization. The entire operation of Open Your Heart was conducted by its volunteer Board of Directors within their individual work spaces. In 1989, and in anticipation of a change in the Governor’s Office, office space was rented in Metro Square to house Open Your Heart. Metro Square had a large number of state employees working in it already and was only two blocks away from the Department of Jobs and Training. The office provided an air of legitimacy for Open Your Heart and also provided space to consolidate important files and materials needed to support the organization.
In 1991 Open Your Heart hired its first employees. Two students, seniors from the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas, were hired as part time Campaign coordinators. The work of the campaign coordinators allowed Open Your Heart to venture outside state and university employees by adding employees of Hennepin County and Metro Waste Control to the campaign. Today, Open Your Heart participates primarily in public employee campaigns, and raises more than $700,000 each year.
As a result of the growth and success, a part time Executive Director was hired. This position worked to create a real office presence and helped relieve the Board of many of its duties. The office has since expanded to include a Communication Manager and Office Manager, all who work 32 hours a week.
Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless now participates in many workplace giving campaigns statewide, and solicits donations directly through the organization’s website.