The Foundation of 
Our New Home

As we near the finish line of our new campus and revel in the excitement that our next horizon brings, I can’t help but think of Open Hand’s earliest days of formation and years of operation. We should all never forget that the Open Hand of today (and tomorrow) was built atop the shoulders of amazing leaders who never gave up, no matter how daunting it was to tackle all the challenges that “Project Open Hand” faced. 

At the top of the list, of course, is our founder Michael Edwards Pruitt, whose tenacity and determination to make a difference in the darkest days of the AIDS pandemic is only out measured by his big heart and compassion. I think about the congregation of St. Bartholomew's Church, the home of our first kitchen, and the leadership of the Ryan White program. Additionally, people like Jean Levine, Ruth Brinker (may they rest in peace), Phillip Carpenter, Loretta Red, and of course, the late Stephen Woods can’t be forgotten either. Stephen always had a vision for where Open Hand could go and was an early adopter of the Food is Medicine movement. You can imagine the sense of pride I feel in knowing we are making that vision a reality. I also think about Alicia Phillip, and her constant belief and support of our mission. She was and still is one of our greatest champions, always there for us when we need encouragement and occasionally tough love.  

And then, of course, there are all the thousands of volunteers who selflessly have given their time and their passion to serve Open Hand over the past 36 years. We remain forever in their debt. 

I know that I have not referenced nearly all the leaders who were part of our early formation, many of whom I’ve never met. I've only scratched the surface of the brave souls who banded together to care for those most in need during a time when very few dared to.  We’re thankful to everyone who was brave enough to put a brick in the foundation of what is now Open Hand. 

Our future has never looked brighter and the potential for greater impact is truly becoming a reality. We are all literally seeing it fall into place and come together before our very eyes. Are we excited about our future? Absolutely. But we will honor and remember our past, along with the many, many individuals who have carried us to where we stand today. 

Pictured, L to R: Portraits of Michael Edwards Pruitt, Founder of Open Hand, and Stephen Woods, Former Executive Director of Open Hand


- Matthew Pieper, Chief Executive Officer, June 2024