Grantee Impact Stories

Recent Grantee Impact Stories

December 2018 Grantees

Advocates Against Domestic Abuse 

“Open Your Heart made it possible to provide our clients that are housed in emergency/safe housing due to domestic violence a safer space for them and their children. The grant was used to install electronic key card access and commercial grade steel safety doors at the entrance to each client apartment. This has brought peace of mind to many!”

The Link 

“Open Your Heart funds ensured youth at C.O.R.E Drop-In Center had adequate resources during the winter months, which was particularly rough in 2018-2019. Many of the youth C.O.R.E serves live out of their cars or on the street during these arduous times, so being able to provide appropriate winter clothing, gift cards, gas cards, bus passes, and culturally specific hygiene supplies is crucial to guaranteeing youth stay safe before their entry into shelter and supportive housing.

Andre was staying at the Matrix Emergency Shelter from December 2018 until they closed their doors in April. Matrix only had enough funding to stay open overnight throughout the cold winter months. Andre received a housing referral, approximately two weeks before the shelter closed, but struggled to find affordable housing that was in the allotted rental amount the program would cover, as well as a landlord that would accept him due to his criminal record. C.O.R.E staff gave Andre a tent, tarp, water bottles, bungee cords, a flashlight, a zero degree sleeping bag, matches and a backpack purchased with Open Your Heart funds to stay safe while camping. He was also able to order a winter jacket and boots of his choosing a few months prior to this with these funds. Finally, Andre was given four gas cards throughout the month to be able to drive to his new job. Those gas cards got him through financially until his first paycheck, when he was able to purchase own gas. ”

October 2018 Grantees

Small Sums 

Small Sums resident with bus passes.

In October 2018, Open Your Heart Awarded Small Sums with a $8,910 grant to purchase 198 rush-hour bus passes for the individuals that they serve. Here are a few quotes from some of the individuals that were impacted by the grant:

“I have been unemployed since January due to a workplace injury. I had to switch my profession to office work due to the injury and without your help I would not have been able to accept the job without a bus pass. I appreciate the chance to succeed not just for myself, but to provide a strong work either for my kids”. – Small Sums Resident

“I am currently still homeless, but I want you to know your efforts have pushed me closer to my goals. The helped I received was a bus card to get to work to hopefully end my homelessness. It may not seem like a lot, but your donation means the world to me!” – Small Sums Resident

Our Saviour’s Community Services

In August 2018, Open Your Heart awarded Our Saviour’s Community Services with a $8,625 grant to purchase a new refrigerator and freezer. Discussing the impact it’s already had on the organization, Sandy Aslaksen, the Executive Director at Our Saviour’s states:

“Our volunteer meal providers are so excited to have these new refrigeration and freezer units, generously provided by Open Your Heart, to safely store the food they bring to serve at our shelter. Additionally, we feel good knowing our meal service is safer for the 40 men and women whom stay with us each night”.

June 2018 Grantees

Bridgepointe Community Church Food Pantry

Open Your Heart awarded Bridgepointe with a $2,850 grant to purchase a new stove, coffee maker, and freezer for their food shelf. A Bridgepointe staff member stated:

“Because of the grant from Open Your Heart we are able to serve more than 200 people a month, helping them with weekly meals and to get food on their tables at home. It is a blessing to have Open Your Heart [as a] partner to help fight against poverty, hunger, and homelessness in our community.”

Community Emergency Assistance Programs, Inc. 

Community Emergency Assistance Programs, Inc. (CEAP) was awarded a $6,200 Hunger and Homeless Grant from Open Your Heart to assist in the purchase of a new lift grate for their food rescue truck. A staff member from CEAP discussed the impact that OYH’s grant had on CEAP and stated:

“The grant from Open Your Heart allowed us to sustain our food rescue operations by sizing our truck with the appropriate size lift to accommodate the ever-increasing weight of the food donations we are accepting from our partners. Without this critical replacement, we were one malfunction away from bringing our food rescue operation to a standstill.”

Grace House of Itasca County

“The Open Your Heart [Education] grant made a difference for 24 students in four area school districts. Our district partners said this OYH grant supported students unlike any other funding source has in the past. The funds definitely helped students and families for improved access and academic success. This grant was so much appreciated by everyone involved. The homeless school liaisons were especially happy with having this resource available and most importantly the students served by this grant had access and support, which would have not been possible without these funds.”

Life House, Inc. 

Open Your Heart awarded Life House, Inc. with a $1,647 grant to purchase a new oven for their Drop-In Center kitchen. Explaining the importance of this grant for their program, a Life House staff member stated:

“Thanks to Open Your Heart we were able to purchase a new smart technology electric range for our youth drop-in center. Our drop-in center serves over 700 youth ages 14 to 24 annually, opening for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. The purchase of this range will help us to continue to provide nutritious meals to the most vulnerable youth in our community.”

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless 

Open Your Heart provided the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH) with a $5,000 grant to support their 2018 statewide annual conference. An MCH staff member stated:

“Open Your Heart’s generosity allowed us to not only put on another successful event for learning and networking, but allowed people with lived experiences of homelessness to attend our conference.”

2018 Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Conference

People Reaching Out to Other People

People Reaching Out to Other People (PROP) was awarded a $3,500 grant from Open Your Heart to purchase a new refrigerator. One PROP staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Hunger and Homeless Grant made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“Open Your Heart’s funding allowed us to expand our refrigeration capacity when we remodeled our Fresh Choice Market. We are now able to offer more nutritious food [options] including produce, lean protein, and dairy that improve the health and well-being of our clients”.

Perspectives, Inc. 

“Funding from Open Your Heart opened the door to homeless children having multiple outdoor educational experiences for the first time such as canoeing, hiking, outdoor cooking, swimming and storytelling around a fire.  In a post-survey, we ask our students what they will most remember about the Wilderness Inquiry experience. One student response sums it up,“EVERYTHING!; this was the best summer of my life!” Thank you so much for supporting the experiential education of our middle school students!

Open Your Heart funding supported Pawell in attending a Wilderness Inquiry camp with other Middle School students in Perspectives’ “The Connection” Program. Pawell is a 7th grade student living with his Mom. At the Wilderness Inquiry camp, Pawell learned about the natural world and his relationship to it. Pawell loves learning.  A good student always, he learns best when his education is connected with real life experiences. Camp allowed him to touch and see the environmental, scientific and natural lessons he was exposed to each day. “We did a lot. I learned to make a fire, how to look for natural resources and watch for poisonous berries. We star gazed, went on nature hikes, learned about flowers and a lot about trees.” Camp also provided an opportunity for Pawell to connect with his peers and staff in new ways and gave him an opportunity to deepen the trusting relationships that are a key element to the success of Perspectives’ children’s programming. Thank you, again, for expanding our young people’s viewpoint on their world.”

Project for Pride in Living (PPL)

Open Your Heart awarded Project for Pride in Living with a $3,000 grant to help provide resources for children who are exiting homelessness and living in PPL housing. Highlighting the impact that OYH’s grant has had on their organization and those they serve, a staff member states:

“Through the Education Grant from Open Your Heart, PPL was able to remove barriers to education for children and youth who were formerly homeless. The grant provided the flexible resources needed to give each student what they uniquely require, allowing them to attend the school and enrichment activities that best meet their goals for learning, growth, and inclusion in the community. The support of Open Your Heart in 2018 was critical to addressing the specific needs of young people in our housing. Ultimately, this flexible support can help children gain full access to educational resources—including the love of learning that has a ripple effect on children’s success in school. Thank you for this grant.

It doesn’t always take a huge investment to remove a barrier to education. Fawn and her three children, ages 8-14, were homeless when they moved into PPL supportive housing. Having a home with new expectations, new schools, and new neighbors was a positive development for the family, but the mental and physical health issues that contributed to homelessness continued. Getting children to school on time was a particular challenge. Several times, staff provided transportation to all of the children—who, because of their ages, go to three different schools—because they had missed their buses. Eventually, the children’s lack of consistent school attendance resulted in a Child Protective Order being issued from the county. PPL’s Family Supportive Housing staff worked with the family to address their specific challenges, working both with Fawn and her three children. Using funds from the Open Your Heart Education grant, staff purchased three battery-powered alarm clocks, removing a key barrier to getting children ready for school and to their bus stops on time. Through the children’s strong relationships with PPL’s Youth Services Coordinator, the children began to place greater value on going to school and increased their self-reliance around school attendance.”

Ruth’s House of Hope 

“The grant from Open Your Heart allowed Ruth’s House to replace doors on our third floor, both main doors leading outside, and the entry corridor door, improving the safety and security for the women and children at Ruth’s House. We now have doors that are functional, with panic bars to create a “one action” step in case of a fire, and efficient. We are truly grateful to be able to provide safety, security, and peace of mind to our residents because of the grant from Open Your Heart.”

Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women

Open Your Heart awarded Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women with a $3,000 grant to purchase backpacks, school supplies, clothing/shoes and other necessary educational items to allow our shelter’s students equally participate with their peers. Two Safe Haven staff members highlight the impact that Open Your Heart’s Education Grant made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“Open Your Heart funding gives our students, who may feel stigmatized by their stay in the shelter even if their classmates do not know where they are living, a feeling of equality with their peers. Many of our children are in elementary school and especially at that age the right backpack or notebook paper will help a child fit in and give them the confidence they need to learn.” – Susan Utech, Executive Director

“I worked with a family of 5 back in February that came from Chicago fleeing domestic violence. For being such a big family they came here with practically nothing. It is hard enough transferring schools for a child, let alone moving into a shelter instead of an actual home. The two younger boys strived to fit in and make friends. I strongly feel that because they had the supplies they needed for school it made it so much easier for them to live normal lives outside of the shelter. If they weren’t provided the supplies they needed it would be hard for them to fit in with the rest of the kids. I am very thankful for the Open Your Heart program as it has put a smile on many kids faces including the kids in this family.” – Savanna Olson, Child Advocate

Servants of Shelter of Koochiching County 

Open Your Heart awarded Servants of Shelter with a $3,500 grant to help purchase a new water heater, supplies, and hotel stays for guests. One Servants of Shelter staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Hunger and Homeless grant has had on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“This funding allowed us to upgrade the ancient hot water heater in our shelter, and replace it with a new fuel efficient model that meets our increased needs. Since we had remodeled our basement to turn our triplex into a 5 unit apartment building this was quite necessary. We also were able to direct the rest of the funds to grocery vouchers and bus tickets as requested which allowed our guests to maintain their employment.

We housed 20 adults in our newly renovated basement apartments which were served, as were our other 3 apt. units by one aging 55 gallon hot water heater. The new fuel efficient hot water heater funded by Open Your Heart has provided hot water for our guests in the entire building to bathe, cook with and launder their clothes. Although an abundance of hot water may seem like a small thing it actually plays an important role in our guests ability to retain their employment, help their children attend school with the same amenities as though who are permanently housed.

Thank you Open your Heart for providing us with the means to invest in the future of our guests and for guests still to come to have an available hot shower after a hard days work, access to laundry that will properly clean their clothes, and for helping lower our overall energy use through greater energy efficiency.”

Simpson Housing Services

Open Your Heart awarded Simpson Housing Services with a $3,000 grant to help purchase uniforms and shoes for children who have experienced homelessness. One Simpson Housing staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Education Grant has made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“Support from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless helped Simpson Housing Services (SHS) distribute school uniforms, shoes, and snow pants (required attire/part of uniform requirements at schools) to 102 children in 49 families. This generous support provided essential clothing items to families with economic barriers and helped their children have the required uniforms and clothing throughout the school year. SHS wishes to thank Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless for supporting our work with families experiencing homelessness. The ability to provide these essential items for families this year has had a positive impact in helping families feel more secure and empowered on their paths toward long-term stability.

Julia is a single mom raising her four children (ages 5 to 8), while facing serious medical challenges. Her health forced her to quit her job, resulting in her family becoming homeless. She has been in our family housing program for a year, receiving the advocacy and support she needs to move toward stability. Staff recently helped secure permanent housing near her children’s school. Starting a new school year can be particularly stressful for families who have experienced homelessness and instability. To help address this, her advocate accompanied Julia to the school’s open house and helped the children transition into their new school environment. Her anxiety rose as she entered the uniform room. Julia saw the prices and wondered how she’d possibly be able to pay for everything she needed for her children. Because of the OYH Education grant, staff were able to purchase pants, shirts, and gym shoes for her two children. Julia was so thankful. Easing this financial stress enabled Julia to plan for the future instead of being overwhelmed by her present challenges.”

St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center 

St. Andrew’s Hugo Shelter Kitchen

Open Your Heart awarded St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center with a $6,340 grant to purchase appliances and furniture for their new shelter in Hugo, MN. Highlighting the impact that OYH’s grant has had on their new shelter, a staff member states:

“Open Your Heart provided the funds to purchase the appliances and dining room tables for the new St. Andrew’s Family Shelter. We couldn’t open the shelter without this! Getting these in place was one of the last items to be able to open our shelter on July 31st, and significantly increase shelter capacity for homeless families in the area.

To date (8/30/18) we have had 3 families in our shelter. We have helped families who have previously been on the street and have helped move families from hopelessness to seeing a future. Family members who had no plans, have [now] become employed.”

St. Anne’s Place at Haven Housing:

SAP School Uniform

Open Your Heart awarded Haven Housing with a $2,500 grant to purchase new school supplies, school clothes, shoes, tutoring supplies, and funds to cover field trip costs for more than 130 homeless children. One St. Anne’s Place staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Education Grant made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“Discretionary funding from Open Your Heart’s Education Fund is so important to our program, because each family comes to our shelter with unique needs and challenges, and we are unable to predict many of their educational needs until they arise. One of our primary goals at St. Anne’s Place is to alleviate the negative effects of trauma. The stresses of homelessness can have a significant impact on a child’s development, motivation, confidence and ability to focus in school, and grant funding from Open your Heart provides us with more tools to meet each child’s unique needs.

SAP Tutoring

A 36-year-old mother of two (ages 3 and 11) moved into St. Anne’s Place in November 2017. This was her first experience with homelessness. Her son had autism but had not yet received a diagnosis or services. St. Anne’s Place staff helped her coordinate assessments for her son, and helped her work with PICA (Parents in Community Action) and Minneapolis Public Schools to access the services he needed. He began to thrive in school and woke up every day excited to get on the bus. While at St. Anne’s Place, the mother participated in parenting groups, yoga, and financial education classes. She met with the on-site family therapist weekly to work on her mental health issues. After 4.5 months at St. Anne’s Place, the mother got a job as a PCA (Personal Care Assistant) and found an apartment she loved. The family moved into their new home in April 2018.”

The Salvation Army of Fergus Falls 

Open Your Heart awarded a $4,720 grant to the Salvation Army of Fergus Falls to purchase a new kitchen steam table. Highlighting its impact, one of the Salvation Army’s staff stated:

“With OYH’s grant we can continue serving 50 people every day during our lunch meal and 20 youth who receive a meal during a school program. Support as simple as a warm , healthy, and safe meal is often the first source of hope for families and individuals experiencing crisis.”

Women of Nations 

“Our Education grant from Open Your Heart enabled us to provide students and families with necessary school supplies, backpacks and school uniforms throughout the school year at no cost to the families. For clients in our emergency shelter, this eases both a financial burden and the challenge of getting to and from stores as many clients have limited or no transportation.

A family came to the emergency shelter in late September and the young boy, Isiah, who was in third grade, was using an old backpack to carry his schoolbooks in. The backpack had a large hole in the bottom, but the family hadn’t been able to afford a new backpack at the beginning of the year, so Isiah struggled to keep all of his belongings together. Our Youth Program Manager asked him and his mom if he would like a new backpack and they said, yes. A new backpack was provided through the Open Your Heart Education grant. Isiah was very excited to have a new backpack – he showed it off to everyone around him with a huge smile on his face!”

YouthLink MN 

Open Your Heart awarded YouthLink MN with a $3,000 grant to help remove the barriers towards obtaining a GED and taking steps towards educational attainment to provide homeless youth the skills and tools they need to escape poverty. One YouthLink staff member discussed the impact it has had on their organization and stated:

“Funding from Open Your Heart has allowed YouthLink to provide educational counseling and resources to 120 youth experiencing homelessness. With OYH funding, we are able to break down educational barriers that exist for young people.”

YouthLink MN Tutoring Session

April 2018 Grantees

Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) 

“By receiving the Open Your Heart grant, the CHUM Food Shelf was able to raise the roof of productivity and effectiveness at one of Duluth’s busiest food shelves. With funds from the Open Your Heart Grant, we were able to purchase a new chest freezer, a floor scale, and a new, energy efficient cooler condenser for our walk in refrigerator. Each one of these pieces of equipment helped us to help more people—the new freezer allowed us to expand out meat selections—the floor scale has sped up the shopping/checkout process by more than 7 minutes per client, which allows us to serve more people in our 4 hour window—and the new energy efficient cooler condenser keeps our fresh produce and dairy products at the proper temperature and safe for our clients and their families.

Scott, the Director of Distributive Services first met Irene when she wandered into the CHUM Food Shelf looking for any kind of help. Irene, a single mom of four kids, two with special needs, struggled to make ends meet. “Being a single mom, so many things just pile up that sometimes I don’t know how I manage.” As we were talking, she smiled as she talked about her kids, and described how she draws strength from them. “There are times when I just tell my children we’re going to have to limit ourselves and they tell me, ‘Don’t worry, Mommy, tomorrow will be another day.’”

Irene feels grateful that she has found help when she needs it and wants those who need it to know it’s out there. “I would like for everybody to know that there is help out there. I am smiling because I am happy because you all have changed my life. I feel more relieved because I have food and my kids know the difference.”

Thanks to supporters like Open Your Heart, CHUM can help those who are lost—whether it be through emergency shelter, supportive housing, or food to fill the fridge and pantry—it’s about fostering stable lives through a compassionate community.”