Grantee Impact Stories

Grantee Highlights

Avenues for Homeless Youth 

Avenues Staff Member Next to New Under Bed Storage

Today’s Grantee Monday highlight is about Avenues for Homeless Youth. Avenues received funding from Open Your Heart this past October for under bed storage chests and new metal bed frames. With new under bed storage chests and bed frames, Avenues for Homeless Youth is able to provide an environment and shelter that feels like home and allows homeless youth to strive and heal.

Avenues for Homeless Youth’s mission is to provide emergency shelter, short-term housing and supportive services for homeless youth in a safe and nurturing environment. Avenues operates two congregate shelters that combined provide a temporary home and intensive supports for 33 homeless youth every day. Thank you Avenues for your incredible work and dedication towards helping youth experiencing homelessness in MN.

CROSS Services

CROSS Services Volunteers at Work

Today’s Grantee Monday highlight is about CROSS Services. CROSS Services received funding from Open Your Heart this past December for three new commercial coolers. The three coolers for CROSS’ food shelf warehouse will preserve the increased poundage (from 58,000 lbs per month to 120,000 lbs. per month) of donated fresh perishable foods be able to move at least 85% of this healthy fresh food to families and individuals in need.

CROSS was incorporated in 1977 to provide emergency services of food, clothing, and housing assistance to families and individuals struggling with low- incomes and to those in a financial crisis. Over the past 5 years, CROSS food distribution has expanded from one site to 31 locations impacting more than 5,000 families each month. Thank you CROSS Services for all the amazing work you do in our community!

Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul 

Monday’s are becoming our favorite day of the week because we get to share a little bit about the incredible work so many of our community partners and grantees are doing for the state of MN and the hunger and homeless community.

Today’s grantee highlight is about one of our 2018  December grantees,  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul. Interfaith Action received funding from Open Your Heart this past December for a new produce crisper. The new produce crisper extends the shelf-life and quality of the produce they offer to their clients. Established in 1906, Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul collaborates with over 150 organizations (including over 100 diverse faith communities and dozens of nonprofit partners) working together to relieve the effects of poverty and address its root causes. They serve over 3,000 low-income community members annually. Let’s give it up for Interfaith Action and the amazing work they are doing!

Oasis Central Minnesota

Today’s grantee highlight is about Oasis Central Minnesota. Oasis received funding from Open Your Heart this past December for motel vouchers for their street outreach. The motel vouchers will assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Morrison County this winter, where there are currently no other services for emergency housing, by providing them with a warm place to stay for numerous nights.
The vision of Oasis Central Minnesota is to provide a platform for Morrison County residents to work together through Oasis Central Minnesota to assure access to basic necessities for all. Their mission is to build community and bridge gaps by providing emergency housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, being a resource and referral hub, and increasing access to quality food. Thank you Oasis for all the incredible work you are doing!

New Creation Baptist Church

Monday’s are a lot less dreary when you know about all of the incredible work and contributions that so many MN nonprofits are making towards the fight against hunger and homelessness.

Today’s grantee highlight is about New Creation Baptist Church (NCBC). NCBC received funding from OYH for a new commercial freezer for their food shelf. With this new freezer, NCBC’s food shelf will be able to expand its services and capacity to offer more food to those in need. The New Creation Baptist Church’s (NCBC) food shelf mission is to serve the people in the Greater Metropolitan Area who are struggling financially and are in need of food. NCBC’s food shelf distributes food on Saturdays when most food shelves are closed and currently serve about 1,000 individuals monthly with over 14,000 pounds of food distributed. Thank you New Creation Baptist Church for all the wonderful work you do for the homeless community.

The Link 

It’s Monday and you know what that means; it’s Grantee Monday! Today’s grantee highlight is about one of our recent 2018 grantees  The Link. The Link received funding from OYH for street outreach supplies. The supplies purchased will help youth experiencing homelessness in Dakota, Washington, and Hennepin counties stay warm, hydrated, and nourished during the winter months, and will assist with personal hygiene and other basic needs.

The Link was founded in 1991 by two former Minnesota Vikings players, Jim Marshall and Oscar Reed, in response to a need for services for youth who were being victimized by crime and homelessness in north Minneapolis. What was once a grassroots initiative to bring opportunity to youth, has become a multi-service agency offering comprehensive programs to address the multifaceted needs of youth. Thank you to The Link for the incredible work you do!

HOPE (Healing Opportunity Provided Equally) 

It’s Grantee Monday! Today’s grantee highlight is about one of our recent 2018 grantees Healing Opportunity Provided Equally (HOPE)! HOPE received funding from OYH to purchase a new security system that will allow key-less entry for its residents. With the new key-less entry security system, HOPE will be able to ensure the safety of its residents whom are escaping from trauma and staying in their emergency/safe housing. HOPE was established in 1981 as a non-profit organization to serve victims of domestic abuse. They serve victims of domestic abuse in Aitkin, Crow Wing, and Mille Lacs Counties, but also extends to additional rural Minnesota communities when needed. Thank you HOPE for the incredible work that you do in Minnesota and providing emergency shelter and hope to so many women and children in need.

Loaves & Fishes

Loaves & Fishes’ Street Outreach Meal Program

Kicking off the new year with our first Grantee Monday! Each Monday, Open Your Heart will highlight one of our charity partners, showcasing the organization and it’s impact.

Today’s grantee highlight is about one of our recent 2018 grantees Loaves & Fishes! Loaves & Fishes received funding from OYH to purchase four new doors for expanded, energy-efficient refrigeration space in their warehouse. The expanded refrigeration will enhance the quality and quantity of fresh food that is distributed through their street outreach meal program. Loaves & Fishes began in 1982 with two dining sites. Today they serve at 60+ meal outlets in seven counties and are the largest open to the public free meal program in Minnesota. Thank you Loaves & Fishes for all the wonderful work you do throughout Minnesota!

Recent Grantee Impact Stories

Small Sums

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

Small Sums Resident with Bus Passes

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

Ascension Place at Haven Housing:

Open Your Heart awarded Ascension Place 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 Ascension Place staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Education Grant made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

SAP School Uniform








SAP Tutoring
SAP Tutor Lab








“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.

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.”

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.”

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”.

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.”

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. One Safe Haven staff member highlights the impact that Open Your Heart’s Education Grant made on their organization and the individuals that they serve, stating:

“Because of the Open Your Heart grant children at our shelter can fit in with other kids in every aspect of school life — academic, social and extra-curricular. This feeling of belonging helps them concentrate on learning and to participate with confidence.

For a thirteen year old boy, school is not an easy place to be. For a thirteen year old boy living in a women’s shelter and shouldering the responsibility, along with a mom who has been through way too much, of raising his four younger siblings, school can be a living nightmare. The Open Your Heart grant was vital in relieving a huge amount of stress in this particular teenager’s life. Before coming to our shelter having clean clothes was not high on his list of needs. Unfortunately, kids at school, and teachers, took notice of the lack of personal hygiene and brought it up with him. He did the best he could to keep his sisters clean for school, but him and his brother often skipped their showers and rarely had clean clothes to change into. After the family came to the shelter, Open Your Heart allowed for these two brothers to go out shopping and finally to take care of themselves. They had a blast trying on different outfits, figuring out their sizes, wearing clothes they’d never worn before. Their confidence shone out of them when they got back to the shelter and put on a fashion show of sorts for everyone. They couldn’t stop their smiles from taking over their faces, and getting ready for school the following Monday was a lot easier knowing they wouldn’t get teased by the other students. The clothes let these kids be kids. They allowed them to fit in at school, to make new friends, to be a part of group project without snide comments from the other students. They get to wear clothes that fit them, that aren’t full of holes in the wrong places and that helped them look cool, or… on fleek, whatever the preferred term is for these kids. It might just look like a pair of sweatpants, a basketball jersey, and some name-brand sandals to an outsider, but to these kids, that outfit showed care, love, compassion, acceptance, and understanding. Someone cares about them. Someone wants them to feel confident and to succeed. And they know this because of an afternoon spent shopping, and a few new outfits.”

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 

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:

Kitchen within St. Andrew’s New Shelter
St. Andrew’s New Family Shelter Located in Hugo MN

“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.”

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.”

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