Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Open Hand, Open Hearts
A Perfect Fit
After volunteering two full days at Open Hand, I completely understand why they came so highly recommended as a great place for me to consider. I understood that their mission was to provide nutritious meals for people who have HIV, critically ill, or elderly, but, after spending three hours cutting fresh peppers of all colors, picking rosemary, and then cutting Oyster mushrooms for a sauce to top roasted chicken breast, I soon realized that this place was serious about providing quality, wholesome, and healthy meals.
The wholesome mentality is reinforced in everything they do. They compost everything possible, which brings tens of thousands of dollars back into the organization, and they save energy with two donated solar panels on the roof. But let me get back to the food! Some items that caught me off guard were Wolfgang puck soups, flavored yogurts, raw frozen chicken, yams, tomatoes, and 4 different types of milk! The absolute majority of the food contains no high fructose corn syrup and is full (and i mean full) of grains, oats, and heart healthy choices. Oh and talking about choices, they provide: Regular, bland (low sodium), Vegetarian (yes Tofu is a choice), diabetic, mechanically softened and Low Fat/No Diary (mostly for people battling Cancer).
All this is done by amazing management and organization. Teams of volunteers come in to work one of two shirts. The morning cuts and preps all the food and the afternoon works the assembly line to pump out over 1400 sealed, deliverable meals. I should mention I am much better scooping peas then Brussel sprouts and also that I still can't manage to keep my 1940s style ice cream vendor hat tightly on.
One of my favorite parts of the day is the conversations that take place while doing work that could otherwise seem tedious. On my first day I was stationed next to a lovely elderly lady with a quaint proper British accent who quickly commented on my 'better than average' skills with the knife. I later confessed that I had an advantage - growing up in a household with a grandfather who was a butcher in Argentina and a mother with favorite hobby of gourmet cooking. I asked about her pleasant accent and found out she was born and raised right outside of Capetown. She was delighted to find that my project has me visiting South Africa. Beautiful and scenic were the words she used to describe Capetown and the surrounding farming country. My next question led to a discovery that gave me a better understanding of the organization. She was going on her 18th year volunteering at Open-Hand! As I went around the room asking the volunteers - 18, 16, 8, 5 - it became clear that this is more than a 4 story factory or a place to volunteer when you have the time, this was a family where volunteers become close friends and most importantly believe in both the organization and the cause. Man or woman, old or young, heterosexual or homosexual, everyone has the same thing in mind and the the numbers also depict this concept. A self proclaimed "rookie" can see and learn that the most important thing about cutting bacon, mushrooms, and peppers is preparing the meals with an open heart; after all, the slogan of Open Hand is "Meals with Love".
Coming Soon - Working in the Grocery Store and Going on Home/Site Deliveries