Recent Comments

    Hope, Perspective and a Chance for Renewed Energy at Project Open Hand

    By Mark Ryle, LCSW

    Last Tuesday I was delivering hot meals on one of our Tenderloin walking routes. My last client didn’t answer her door after several tries, which was unusual for her. I worried as I walked down the stairs, but just as I landed on the first floor, our client called out to me from the front door: “Hey! I was outside. It is such a beautiful day!” I smiled almost as broadly as she did, grateful for her perspective and energy.

    Springtime brings hope, perspective and a chance for renewed energy. As we gear up for our annual gala, Taste of the City, I see that, although it is only April, this year has already brought much transformation to Project Open Hand.

    4.21Bay Times pp1-40v2_Page_13_Image_0004

    I am so very proud of where we are, and excited about where we are going. In March, I became the sole CEO with the support of a dedicated board, passionate volunteers and committed staff. Working alongside Simon Pitchford as co-CEO for the last twelve months allowed me to effect a strong transition and to begin to build our next 3-year strategic plan.

    We maintain our steadfast commitment to the HIV community on numerous fronts, including our successful advocacy for increased Ryan White program funding, allowing us to serve more HIV+ clients. And as our HIV+ clients age, they begin to face other significant health challenges. We eagerly bring our passion and the skills of our 30 years of fighting critical illness to bear this new context and stand by our clients as they thrive into their senior years.

    Additionally, our groundbreaking “Food = Medicine” pilot study demonstrated the powerful impact of our complete nutritional intervention for people with critical illnesses. This research proves our medically tailored meals program significantly reduces hospital stays and emergency room utilization while increasing our clients’ adherence to their medical treatments. Based on this initial success, we are entering a second phase of research specifically focused on critically ill HIV+ clients.

    Alongside this progress, we face significant challenges. While we remain fully committed to nourishing the most vulnerable among us, as of early April, we have suspended applications for new clients with critical illnesses other than HIV and breast cancer.

    Current Project Open Hand clients, no matter their diagnoses, will not be affected by this change. We are proud to have expanded our programs to assist neighbors with critical illnesses outside of HIV+ and breast cancer, because we have seen firsthand the positive medical impact our nutrition services. However, the need for our services in expanded populations has proven tremendous, as the number of new applications is greater than we have seen since 1996.

    Our founder Ruth Brinker faced this same challenge back in 1985 when she began providing her “meals with love” to very sick friends and neighbors. Within months, the demand for services grew 500%. She would be proud that we once again take up the challenge to help those in desperate need for nutrition. We are committed to finding more support for our mission, including engaging other segments of our community through upcoming local events. Our second annual Taste of the City gala, to be held on May 5, will provide both an exciting culinary experience at iconic San Francisco restaurants as well as opportunities for involvement in Project Open Hand’s work.

    Constantly energized and inspired by our clients, we work every day to ensure they have the means not just to survive, but also to thrive. Without the support of our donors, volunteers, and advocates, we could not persevere on the front lines of this mission. I am humbled by, and grateful for, their assistance, and look forward to working alongside them through all we have left to achieve together.

    Mark Ryle, LCSW, is the CEO of Project Open Hand.