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Open Arms Hosta Cook-A-Thon

Volunteers prepare 11,000 meals a week for Open Arms, which are then delivered to clients dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

On any given week, Open Arms volunteers and staff chop, cook, plate and freeze 11,000 meals and snacks. So what do they do to cover an uptick of supply and demand in the fourth quarter when the nonprofit meal delivery program tends to sign up additional clients?

They invite volunteers to come into their state-of-the-art kitchen and prepare 11,000 meals in 24 hours. The fundraiser is being held September 21-22 at Open Arms, 2500 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis. 

And while signing up enough volunteers to man a 24-hour shift is pretty daunting on its own, Open Arms took it a step further and made it a competition, where teams of six pay or fund raise a minimum of $750 to participate, $1,500 to select your shift. And since it’s a 24-hour event, avoiding the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. shift might be worth the extra cash.

College students tend to be the ones who sign up for the late hours, according to Lisa Lane, senior director of development and community involvement. Although last year a group from Surly Brewing Co. took the 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift and then all went out to breakfast together, Lane said. 

The fundraising goal for this year is $130,000, Lane said, up from $120,000 raised in 2017.

The healthy, free meals are delivered weekly to people dealing with life-threatening illnesses, and their caregivers. All meals are made from scratch based on recipes that follow the guidelines for the patient’s dietary requirements, such as gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan. 

Cook-a-Thon, now in its fifth year, allows Open Arms to get a week ahead in meal preparation, while raising money and engaging its volunteer community.  And while it only lasts 24 hours, the prep time involves quite a bit more effort. 

But it’s not too late to help: Individual volunteers and teams are still needed, as well as sponsors. 

The event requires 60 volunteers for 12 shifts. And while people do it for the warm feeling of helping others, it’s even more fun if you’re competitive. The winning prize for the team that raises the most money is a coveted table at Open Arms’ Movable Feast gala, Lane said. 

Instead of a ribbon cutting to kick off the event, Executive Director Leah Hebert Welles and Executive Chef Seth BIxby Daugherty cut a ceremonial carrot. 

“At the end we raise a glass of nonalcoholic sparkling something, and everyone goes home tired,” Lane said. 

To keep the volunteers fired up, especially in the wee hours, there’s coffee, of course, and lots of snacks (the cookies alone are worth two hours of work), great music and competitions, such as bean snapping and corn shucking.

The Charlies will have a team at the fundraiser with the not-so-creative name of Charlies’ Angels. We don’t expect to take home top honors, but we do snap a pretty mean bean. In addition, proceeds from the Charlie Awards on January 27 go to Open Arms. 

September 21-22
Ways to donate: 

Set up a 6-person team

Volunteer as an individual

Donate to an existing team to help them reach their goal

Sponsor or provide a matching gift to induce others to raise more

For more information, contact: EmilyM@openarmsmn.org or www.openarmsmn.org

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