Jan 6, 2023 - Business

Open Arms of Minnesota expands to St. Paul. Here's how to help

A photo of an orange building with a logo reading "Open Arms"

Open Arms' new building at 80 E. Lafayette Frontage Rd., St Paul. Photo: Open Arms of Minnesota

Did you get a warm, fuzzy feeling helping neighbors during the snowstorm? Keep the good vibes going by volunteering this winter.

Driving the news: After four decades in Minneapolis, nonprofit Open Arms of Minnesota just opened a second kitchen and facility in St. Paul to serve over 1.5 million meals to Minnesotans in need.

Why it matters: Many people volunteer during the holidays, but help is needed all year round. Open Arms' expansion means more Minnesotans can receive care and more volunteers can make a difference.

How it works: The nonprofit works with registered dietitians to create free, medically-tailored healthy meals for people with life-threatening illnesses. Everything is made at Open Arms' facilities and delivered to the recipient's door.

  • Options include heart-healthy meals, easy-to-chew foods, flavor-neutral menus for those in chemotherapy and much more.
  • Open Arms also grew its shipping program during the pandemic, sending 4,000 to 5,000 meals a week to people in Greater Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Reality check: While need has skyrocketed, particularly during the pandemic when more people were homebound, volunteer numbers have dropped.

  • In 2019, Open Arms had around 8,000 annual volunteers. It's now down to 3,600, though the organization did add more full-time staff, CEO Leah Hébert Welles tells Axios.

What to expect: Volunteers prepare, package, and portion food with kitchen staff — no culinary skills necessary — or deliver meals across the metro. Anyone age 8 and up can sign up for two-hour shifts.

What she's saying: "All our food goes out within a few days. You leave feeling accomplished and knowing you made an immediate difference in someone's life," Hébert Welles said.

What's next: The new facility is open now for volunteers and will host an open house on Feb. 4.

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