Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless was founded in 1986 by employees of the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training (now called the Department of Employment and Economic Development). The impetus for creating Open Your Heart was a statewide drive by the department to raise money and food for Minnesota’s food shelves in November 1985. Led by Commissioner Joe Samargia, the department organized a drive to raise public awareness of the needs of the local food shelves. The results were encouraging, so the committee initiated an annual payroll deduction campaign.
A Long-term Commitment
Interested in creating something lasting, state employee Michael Fratto recruited the presidents of the largest state government employee bargaining units to serve as Open Your Heart’s incorporating board. With the assistance of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 6, H. Glenn Littler; Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), Mike Haney; Middle Management Association (MMA), Gene Aune — and the department staff — they created documents to incorporate as a not-for-profit organization.
Open Your Heart was incorporated on April 21, 1986, and we launched our first payroll deduction campaign that July, raising nearly $30,000 from employees at the Department of Jobs and Training. With these funds, we made our first grant of $26,000 to the Emergency Fund Service. Later that fall, we expanded the campaign to include all state agencies and the University of Minnesota. This first full campaign raised $221,489 — allowing the Board of Directors to make 19 grants totaling $150,000.
In 1991, Open Your Heart opened an office in downtown St. Paul and hired our first employees, part-time campaign coordinators. Today, we continue to carry out our mission with three part-time staff and a dedicated network of board members and volunteers who are actively involved in every part of our organization. Through the commitment of our donors, our organization has grown to provide more than $780,000 in grants each year to help more than 100 food and shelter providers across the state of Minnesota.