Back on solid ground

Open Heart Kitchen, only Tri-Valley hot food service for those in need, is surviving and thriving

It's been six months since Open Heart Kitchen was facing closure due to lack of funds. And while the economy has sunk deeper since then, the nonprofit, which is the only hot food service in the Tri-Valley, is thriving.

It's all thanks to the local community, which executive director Linda McKeever said has been the organization's saving grace.

"We're really pleased," she said. "The community has really stepped up to the plate and we're looking good through 2009, so we're very happy about that."

Open Heart runs free hot meal programs in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin five days a week, serving food to people who are down and out. With the current economic situation, McKeever said the demographics of people in need are changing.

"We're seeing a lot more seniors in the program and we're also seeing a lot more families, where one or two have become extremely underemployed because of the amount of hours cut back or have become unemployed," she said. "We're seeing a lot more meals go home with people than in the past."

Even with an increase in those needing a free meal, Open Heart hasn't expanded its programs.

"That' truly going to depend on community need, when people see that need, we ask them to contact us and we can look at the demographics and see if that's practical or not," McKeever said of possibly adding more meal service. "We are looking at that possibly with the schools in Dublin to see if they see an increase in need in their area."

Community members who have stepped up recently to help the nonprofit include local businesses, people who volunteer their time and children, McKeever said.

"The kids in the community have really reached out to help others in these economic times," she said. "It's amazing to see--the amount of fundraisers the high school kids are doing and the amount of food drives."

A couple months ago, Lynnewood United Methodist Church raised nearly $45,000 for Open Heart, donations that came from the church's congregation. Youth church members organized a talent show and dinner, setting up a donation station in the church lobby. Their efforts were capped by "Souper Bowl Sunday" when they wore football apparel and collected buckets of coins and bills at Sunday worship.

"Lynnewood has a special connection with Open Heart Kitchen," Steve Elliott, outreach leader for the church, said. "Our congregation helped found Open Heart and they operated out of our church kitchen as their home base for many years."

And businesses who once donated to more national and international causes have elected to instead donate locally, she added.

"Now, what a lot of businesses are doing is pulling back into serving locally," McKeever said. "People are wanting more to help their own neighbors because they can see the impact it's having. They're also donating personal hours, coming down to get to know the program."

And that's not to forget the many people who volunteer on a regular basis, with whom McKeever said Open Heart Kitchen would not be possible without.

Now back on solid financial footing, McKeever said the organization is looking to acquire some reserves so Open Heart doesn't face the danger of closing again.

"Because we don't know what the economic times are, we're trying to build a buffer so that we have working capital if we go through more difficult times," she said. "That's what we did not have in the past. That buffer will help in case we need to expand programs, just depending on the need."

For more information about Open Heart, visit


Like this comment
Posted by Community with Heart
a resident of Ridgeview Commons
on May 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Open Heart Kitchen is a very important grass roots program for the TriValley area. I hope more people get to know what meal services they offer to anyone in need, without asking for names or asking questions.

If you are looking for a great volunteer opportunity you can check out their website at

Linda-You have done an amazing job!

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Plenty of water that will cost more this year
By Tim Hunt | 2 comments | 727 views

Nominations due Monday for TV30’s Tri-Valley ‘Coach of the Year’ award
By Jeb Bing | 1 comment | 287 views


Readers' Choice Ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Pleasanton Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 21st. Stay tuned for the results in the June 23rd issue of the Pleasanton Weekly.