Food delivery nonprofit opens location in St. Paul with ‘bread cutting’ ceremony – Twin Cities

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When Barbara Glasoe completed her first shift packing meals for critically ill people for Open Arms of Minnesota in 2021, she knew she’d be coming back.

“I thought, ‘When I’m retired, that’s what I want to do,’” said Glasoe, of Shoreview. She now volunteers about 30 hours per week and was hard at work while others celebrated the opening of Open Arms’ St. Paul location along Lafayette Frontage Road on Tuesday.

In reference to the nonprofit’s goal to feed people, city and organization leaders commemorated the opening by “breaking bread” after expressing their excitement about the expansion.

“In St. Paul, our superpower really is our people and how we help each other, and we have seen that dramatically demonstrated over the last few years,” said St. Paul Ward 2 Council Member Rebecca Noecker. “That is what Open Arms is all about, so there is no better place for this expanded facility than right here.”

Feeding those in need

Open Arms began serving food to those afflicted by AIDS in the 1980s, and since then, has grown to feed people with “all different kinds of life-threatening illnesses,” said CEO of Open Arms of Minnesota Leah Hébert Welles. Meals are tailored to clients’ medical restrictions, allowing them and their caregivers to rest easy as they are provided healthy, pre-prepared food at no cost, she said.

With a preexisting location in Minneapolis, Open Arms has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its services during the last decade, from serving 300 people per week to 1,700, according to Hébert Welles.

The organization currently delivers meals to homes within the Interstate 694 and Interstate 494 corridor, and the new location will allow them to extend farther east, with hopes to serve 10% more people within the next two years. Since 2020, when COVID-19 made it even harder for immunocompromised people to get fed, the organization has also been shipping meals to Greater Minnesota and some parts of neighboring states.

“It almost chokes me up to think about the fact that there are sick people everywhere, and we are positioned here to be able to help them and more folks on the east side of Minnesota,” Hébert Welles said at the ceremony. “We all know somebody who’s sick and needs food, and through the help of 80 staff people and thousands of volunteers, we’re going to do that from this facility.”

‘My happy place’

Open Arms volunteers pack egg salad sandwiches to be delivered out of the new St. Paul location on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Open Arms of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization that prepares and delivers free, nutritious meals to critically ill people. (Olivia Stevens / Pioneer Press)

Hébert Welles said she’s proud of the organization’s community of volunteers who collaborate with each other and build strong connections with clients.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter recalled witnessing that dedication when delivering the organization’s 10 millionth meal in July, as the volunteer who joined him to deliver the meal knew the client, cancer patient Franco Adamo-Benguerra, well.

“It really struck me that Franco wasn’t a client and wasn’t patient in that moment; he was really a friend,” said Carter at the ceremony. A friend dropped off a meal, and there’s not really a more loving thing that you can do.”

Glasoe said she’s grateful to work with diverse groups of volunteers who are all committed to making a difference in sick people’s lives.

Now that the new location is open for business, she said she plans to volunteer at both locations so she can interact with all the organization’s “wonderful people.”

“When we sent Christmas cards this year, I wrote that I’ve found my happy place,” she said.

For more information about Open Arms of Minnesota, go to https://www.openarmsmn.org/.



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