Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - November 29, 2013

Open Heart Kitchen needs your help

Holiday Fund donations help provide 260,000 meals annually

by Jeb Bing

Among the 10 nonprofits that have been selected as this year's recipients of the 11th annual Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, Open Heart Kitchen (OHK) is the one that feeds a wide range of the needy and undernourished, from senior citizens to school children throughout the Tri-Valley.

OHK uses the Holiday Fund contributions to help pay the cost of serving more than 260,000 meals annually. There is no qualifying process to receive meals. Meals can be eaten at OHK's multiple serving sites, or taken to go. OHK works in cooperation with the Alameda County Community Food Bank, more than a dozen local food pantries, and various Tri-Valley nonprofits with missions to promote nutrition and hunger relief.

"The need this year is for the increased numbers of seniors and young people we're seeing at Open Heart serving tables," said Linda McKeever, executive director. "We've increased the hours and number of days we serve the hot meal programs. We would like to add another hot meal serving day in Dublin if we could find a serving site."

Founded in 1995 by an inter-faith effort, Open Heart Kitchen's mission is to provide nutritious meals free of charge or qualification to the needy people of the area. It offers the only free hot meal service of its kind to "guests" who come from all walks of life. Some are homeless, but unlike many urban "soup kitchens," Open Heart Kitchen guests are mostly the working poor. Many are low income seniors on a fixed income, single-parent families, and multi-generational families, all struggling to make ends meet. At Open Heart Kitchen they find a free healthy meal in an environment that upholds their dignity. And, it fulfills the most basic need of hunger in a dignified manner through a three-meal program.

Hot meals are made from scratch by OHK volunteers and served from several locations Monday through Friday to anyone in need. Each meal consists of a protein, starch, vegetable, green salad, fruit salad, bread, milk, coffee, tea or juice and dessert.

To supplement school lunches over the weekends, OHK distributes a box lunch consisting of two healthy lunches to low income children and their families on Friday afternoons from locations in Livermore and Dublin. On average 1,700 boxed lunches are prepared and distributed each week.

In addition, Open Heart Kitchen prepares and serves dinner for low-income senior citizens 62-plus years old, Monday through Friday at Ridge View Commons, a low income senior center in Pleasanton. Usually there are 50 who sign up for these low-cost "Senior Friendly" meals, where the suggested donation is $3 for a meal worth twice the price. OHK subsidizes the cost of each meal and provides free meals to any senior unable to make a contribution.

McKeever has been appealing all week for donations of more frozen turkeys, needed for Thanksgiving dinners yesterday and also for meals during the rest of the holiday season. More than 1,500 turkeys are needed to meet the need of the region's hungry each holiday season. Last November, Open Heart Kitchen and other local food pantries received a new refrigeration/frozen food storage unit in which to store such donations. Frozen turkey donations can be delivered to the dining room of Ridge View Commons Senior Center, located at 5200 Case Ave., Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

OHK welcomes donations from individuals and businesses, and also appreciates the help of volunteers to help serve meals.

Every year, LTD Global, a Pleasanton-based accounting, staffing and consulting firm, closes the office for a day to give back to the community. This year the team volunteered at Open Heart Kitchen, preparing nutritious, well-balanced, senior-friendly meals for Ridge View Commons residents.

"I'm proud of my team pitching in to help the senior community," said Lili Tarachand, founder of LTD Global.

Tarachand has supported numerous nonprofits over the years, recently received a "Business Owners Award" and was recognized as one of the "100 Most Influential Filipina American Women in the U.S." for her community service.

To contribute to Open Heart Kitchen through the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, please direct your donations to:

Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund

c/o Silicon Valley Community Foundation

2440 West El Camino Real, Suite 300

Mountain View, California 94040

Checks should be made payable to Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

There is also an opportunity to donate through Pay Pal online at www.siliconvalleycf.org/pleasantonweeklyholidayfund.

All donations will be acknowledged shortly after being received.

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