Grantee Impact Stories

August 2019 Grantees

Community Emergency Service, Inc. (CES)

“Open your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless provided a grant that enabled Community Emergency Service (CES) to replace its de-functioning 55+ year old boiler and radiators with a new high efficiency furnace system (just before winter arrived).  The support of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless was vital to this project and will enable CES to continue providing hunger relief services 123,500 children, adults, and seniors across the Phillips Community, adjacent areas of South Minneapolis, Downtown Minneapolis, and North Minneapolis.” – Mike Lloyd, Executive Director

Small Sums – At Home Group

“The wonderful grant from Open Your Heart allowed us to purchase (at a discount) 73 rush hour bus passes for our Twin Cities Homeless clients who had just received job offers but needed a reliable way to get to work in the first few months on the job.

Small Sums’ client Jennadya had been couch hopping for almost 6 months. He was excited to be hired on as a Security Guard but needed assistance with essential work items before he could start his new job. Small Sums outfitted him with his uniform by providing non-slip shoes, black pants and black shirts. He also received a bus pass to get to and from work, which was one of the 73 bus passes funded by OYH in 2019.” – Naomi Sadighi, Executive Director

June 2019 Grantees

Loaves & Fishes

“Grant funding from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless was used to purchase a walkie pallet truck. This equipment purchase has substantially improved our warehouse operations by easing maneuverability of food movement. With over 2,000,000 pounds of food moving through our warehouse annually, this enhancement is significantly increasing our efficiency and ability to feed more people in need.

For the past 3 weeks, we have been receiving 22 pallets twice a week from US Foods, one of America’s leading food distributors servicing restaurants, the healthcare industry, and more. We expect this new partnership to be on-going and are tremendously grateful for the addition of a walkie pallet truck to our warehouse resources.” – Melissa Cavanaugh, Grants Associate

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless

“The grant from Open Your Heart helped make the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Annual Conference a success. This event provided training to 500+ homeless and housing advocates from across the state at our annual conference. From best practices in serving people experiencing homelessness and housing instability to training in advocacy or increasing awareness of culturally-specific programming, this two-day event strengthened the work to address homelessness and housing instability across the State; this results in services that more effectively serve people experiencing homelessness and increases our collective impact in our work to end homelessness. In addition, MCH was able to provide scholarships to 29 people with lived experience of homelessness. The scholarships provided conference registration and lodging to fully participate in the two-day conference.” – Rhonda Otteson, Executive Director

People Reaching Out to People (PROP) 

“PROP Food Shelf has never had a sink in our food shelf area for volunteers to utilize in washing produce items (both food rescue and garden) and other cleaning needs for donated food items. This has become a critical need for us in 2019. Because of the grant from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, PROP was able to purchase a commercial sink which is utilized multiple times every day. The selection of garden produce in our fresh choice market has increased significantly because we have a sink and water source in our food shelf. This has made an incredible difference!” – Mary Brown, Development Director

Ruth’s House of Hope

“The grant from Open Your Heart allowed Ruth’s House to replace our two outdated freezers with two new commercial freezers compliant with NSF for our Emergency and Transitional Shelter. The majority of women and children who come to Ruth’s House come without food or the ability to get food. Ruth’s House is truly grateful to Open Your Heart for your generosity and partnership in helping us continue to bring families around the dinner table to share healthy meals together!” – Ruth Hickey, Executive Director

St. Anne’s Place at Haven Housing

“A grant from Open Your Heart allowed St. Anne’s Place emergency family shelter to purchase a new energy-efficient freezer for our kitchen. St. Anne’s Place serves three fresh, healthy meals to more than 50 people each day. The new freezer allows us to accept a substantially increased amount of donated food, saving our program hundreds of dollars each month on food costs.

Brandi, a 25-year-old mother, moved into St. Anne’s Place with her daughter. Brandi had just fled an abusive relationship that she had been involved in for 4 years, and told St. Anne’s Place staff that she remained in the unsafe situation because she was afraid that being in a shelter would be degrading for her and her daughter.  On her first night at St. Anne’s Place, Brandi talked about how welcoming everything felt and that she wished she had come sooner… After 4 months at St. Anne’s Place, with the help of her case managers, Brandi left St. Anne’s Place feeling well-prepared and confident to live on her own.” – Amy Murnan, Haven Housing Grant Writer

April 2019 Grantees

Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) 

CHUM Shelter Vestibule

“Many of our shelter guests are dealing with mental illness and addiction issues and they do not sleep. At night, many want to leave the shelter, knowing our rule that if you leave you are out for the night. The grant from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless provided a new locking mechanism for our inside front door. During the overnight, the inside door locks provide a safety barrier between people in the vestibule (who may be intoxicated or violent) and shelter staff. The vestibule provides a warm and safe space that people can access during the night when weather is bad. Your funding has also allowed us to purchase a bench for the vestibule and shelving to efficiently store shelter, drop-in center, and street outreach supplies. Thank you so much for providing this grant. You have directly helped our shelter guests and staff and we deeply appreciate your support!” – Lee Stuart, Executive Director

Feeding Our Communities Partners

“Funds provided by the Open Your Heart Hunger and Homeless Grant allowed for the purchase of equipment that greatly supports our work to feed and fuel area youth. Our programming is only made possible with the assistance of 60-100 volunteers each week. Purchased equipment has eased stress on volunteers and created greater efficiencies in our daily operations.”

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center

“With a significant increase in capacity through Open Your Heart support, our service delivery has grown in exactly the areas most in demand and able to make the most impact. Our enhanced intake for fresh and nutritious produce, frozen proteins, and milk is responsive to community need and empowers family choice. Thank you for this meaningful support and the great partnership over the years!” – Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director

Hunger Solutions Minnesota

“The Open Your Heart Summer Challenge grant makes a huge difference to food shelves across the state, especially during the summertime when community giving tends to be down but the need is still high because kids are out of school. The Open Your Heart grant provides food shelves with the opportunity to leverage community fundraising. Last year, food shelves used the Open Your Heart Summer Challenge to raise over $1 million in their communities.

The Department of Indian Work Food Shelf experienced a larger than anticipated increase in food shelf usage last year. The Open Your Heart Grant came at a time when they had lost a major funder. With the help of Open Your Heart, the Department of Indian Work was able to assure that no family seeking emergency food was turned away.

Ralph Reeder Food Shelf was able to purchase kid-friendly items that they do not normally receive through in-kind donations. Through the help of Open Your Heart, they were able to meet the needs of their smallest clients.”

Joyce Uptown Food Shelf

“Because of the grant award from Open Your Heart, we were able to purchase a new cooler for our client waiting room.  This cooler enables the produce and refrigerated food we receive through food rescue programs to be kept fresher longer and for clients to have a choice in what they would like to choose. The clients are THRILLED to have the cooler in place.

Since my time as the director of Joyce Uptown Foodshelf, many clients have commented on how it would be nice to have a way to keep the produce that we set out fresher longer and have an easier way to display the produce to make it easier to see and choose from.  The new cooler has enabled us to display the food rescue food we receive in a way that makes it easy for clients to see their choices.  It keeps the produce fresher longer and enables us to leave it in the client waiting area all day for clients to choose from this produce all day long. It has helped us live out our mission to serve with respect and dignity, as it allows folks to feel like they matter because they can choose what they would like to take in a dignified and respectful manner. Clients have been THRILLED with the cooler and we have received so many positive comments…Thank you!” – Lorrie Sandelin, Director

Tracy Food Shelf

Tracy Food Shelf New Commercial Freezer

“We’ve already been able to accept more meat when it becomes available because of this 2-door glass door freezer that we received from Open Your Heart! Having the clear glass window is wonderful so clients can see the options as they shop with out having to open a bunch of smaller freezer to look and easier for volunteers as well!

We’ve heard comments from clients that have been in since we’ve set it up. It’s like they feel more special because it looks so great filled with meat, instead of some smaller freezers where they can’t see anything. I think it makes them feel like they are in a grocery store shopping, and that’s more of an uplifting feeling for them. Thank you so much!!”

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 

“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

“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”.

August 2018 Grantees

The Open Door

“The 2018 grant from Open Your Heart enabled The Open Door to buy a refrigerator and freezer, increasing our cold storage capacity by 30% and allowing us to hold a larger quantity and variety of food. Our healthy food policy ensures that 65% of the items we provide are fresh and perishable, and clients have told us how much they value the fresh meats we provide. Cold storage helps feed more people and avoids wasting donated food.

The Open Door’s summer programs include Pop Up Produce stands, where fruits and vegetables are offered for free near low-income neighborhoods. Mobile Food Program Manager Adam Hoffman reports that because of additional refrigeration from our Open Your Heart grant, he could accept a delivery of 100 gallons of milk at our distribution center. The milk was refrigerated for several hours, then driven to the pop-up site for distribution.” – Sarah O’Brien, Development and Communications Manager

June 2018 Grantees

Bridgepointe Community Church Food Pantry

“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. 

“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. 

“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’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.”

People Reaching Out to Other People

“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)

“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 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 

“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

“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

“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 

“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!”


“Funding from Open Your Heart supported academic success and reduced barriers and family stressors for youth at Tubman. Tubman provided school uniforms, clothing, and athletic shoes, which are often left behind when a family flees violence. Funds also allowed Tubman to cover school transportation costs and fees for driver education to help students overcome transportation barriers.”

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.”