Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Project Open Hand Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel: Commemorating 25 Years of Meals With Love

Tom Nolan, David Chiu, James Hormel, and Jan Wahl

Project Open Hand commemorated 25 years of meals with love at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Dec. 15 at their annual Hand to Hand Luncheon. Hundreds of well-dressed people enjoyed a gala reception followed by luncheon in the hotel ballroom.

Open Hand provides meals to people with HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and other critical illnesses, and seniors. The most vulnerable people in our community are cared for with delicious sustenance, and the holidays are a special time for the organization’s clients. Holiday meals include holiday decorations that include tree ornaments from Under One Roof, and that organization’s executive director Beth Feingold and some of her crew were at the luncheon. Open Hand Communication Manager Hannah Schmunk helped coordinate the luncheon, meeting and introducing guests as she described the work that goes into getting 2,500 meals prepared and delivered each day.

CBS News’ Kate Kelly cleverly MC’ed the event, and she introduced Open Hand executive director Tom Nolan, who has masterfully run the organization for 17 years. Notable guests included donor James Hormel and his lover Michael Nguyen, Open Hand board chair Laura Smith, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Positive Resource Center executive director Brett Andrews, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Suzan Revah with her entourage from Real Bad. An expressive video that featured kitchen volunteers in dance routines that rivaled some current stage shows promoted the Open Hand food program, and it drew laughs of approval from the diners.

The luncheon is known for its diverse meal choices and this year 12 chefs prepared gourmet delights that included four different appetizers, entrées, and desserts.

Demetri Moshoyannis

Folsom Street Events was honored as the Most Outstanding Community Partner at the event. The organization’s executive director Demetri Moshoyannis spoke about the 27-year history of fund raising street fairs that started with visionary Patrick Toner. He also spoke about the $165,000 raised by the fairs for Open Hand and the $4.5 million raised for all of the charities. Moshoyannis is one of those rare executives who has yanked off his shirt to flip hamburgers over a hot grill at events while hungry benefit donors gather around him to have their buns filled and check out his muscles and tattoos.

The Walter and Elise Haas Fund was represented by Jennifer C. Haas, who is the granddaughter of the fund’s founders, who are descended from the Levi Strauss who sold jeans to 1849 Gold Rush miners. She accepted the Open Hand Most Outstanding Foundation Partner Award. The fund’s executive director Pam David was joined by Wally Haas at their table at the luncheon. Haas family members are well-known for their longtime generosity to Open Hand.

Open Hand’s angelic founder Ruth Brinker attended the event and she was awarded a new Visionary Award that in the future will be named for her. She is famous for caring for people with AIDS early in the pandemic. She realized that many were not accessing nutritious food so she started Project Open Hand to provide for them. Dozens of people took turns kneeling at her feet to express their admiration for her activism and for feeding their loved ones. Open Hand volunteers and Macy’s were also honored.

It was an exceptional event for an exceptional organization that compassionately cares for the needy and sets an example for altruistic groups worldwide.

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