Open Hand celebrates 20 years of feeding metro area

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Anna Ferguson at 770-963-9205, ext. 1308, or anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Every day, Open Hand serves more than 3,500 meals to patients in Gwinnett, Atlanta and throughout the metro area. That's a feat, especially considering that when the grassroots campaign began 20 years ago, there were a mere 14 clients.

In the two decades since Michael Edwards Pruitt founded the Atlanta-based mobile meal organization, the company has grown into a full-fledged nutritional services outfit, with nearly a hundred employees providing meals, educational services and job training opportunities to ailing area residents.

"Education is a key part of who we are," said Stephen Woods, executive director of Open Hand. He was the first full-time employee to be hired with the group in 1988. "We are akin to Meals on Wheels in many ways, but we also go beyond that. We help people help themselves."

The group started as a way for Pruitt to take care of a friend battling HIV, but today reaches out to patients with any number of different conditions. Open Hand has 90 food routes throughout the area to benefit an assortment of clients. Most recently, the group has been flooded with requests from those suffering from obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

"Over the years, the purpose of Open Hand has shifted to reach out to more people," Woods said. "We have grown at a rate of 15 percent every year, with no plans to slow down."

Such exponential growth has given the group plenty of reasons to cheer, but has also led to one small hangup: cramped quarters. The group recently resolved this tight-space issue with an expanded, updated kitchen to better serve its ever-growing client base.

The new kitchen will be put to good use come Thursday, as Open Hand benefactors Mot Dinos and Alyce Toonk co-chair Party in the Kitchen: VIP Chef Event and The Main Event. The gatherings will spotlight the group's 20th birthday and renovated kitchen.

"We have a lot of reasons to celebrate," Woods said.

During the shindig, community leaders will take on the role of chefs and dish out hors d'oeuvres, cuisine and cocktails. In addition, the event will feature The Dream Box. Ticket holders can enter a raffle to win the goodies held within the box, estimated to total $30,000. Inside the mysterious box are prizes such as vacation packages to France and Buenos Aires.

"We've got some great things in the works," Woods said. "This is big and exciting stuff to ring in our next 20 years."

Party in the Kitchen: VIP Chef Event will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Open Hand kitchen, 176 Ottley Drive, Atlanta. The Main Event will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at Mason Murer Fine Art, 199 Armour Drive, Atlanta. Tickets are $300 for both events, or $125 for The Main Event only. For information call 404-419-3333 or visit www.projectopenhand.org.

Lawrenceville youth collect cans for co-op

The Lawrenceville Youth Football and Cheerleading Association recently collected nonperishable food items for the Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry, which serves the residents of Lawrenceville and Dacula. Coach Kimberly Goodloe's 8-year-old Black Knights Football Team delivered the items Oct. 1 to the food ministry.

Golf tournament to benefit hospice

Peachtree Christian Hospice will hold a golf classic Monday at St. Ives Country Club, Duluth. Event sponsorships start at $500, and proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit hospice organization. Call 770-232-7727 or e-mail Linda Scott at pchpcc@bellsouth.net.

Hole in one for Habitat

The Richardson Housing Group will sponsor the Nail it for Habitat golf tournament and silent auction at noon Wednesday at Bear's Best Golf Course in Suwanee. The event is a benefit for Gwinnett County Habitat for Humanity. Registration for the tournament and awards dinner costs $300, and sponsorship levels start at $500. Call 770-931-8080, ext. 18.

Concert, festival will raise funds for singer

The Sweet Petunia Day concert and festival will be held at 9 p.m. Wednesday at Northside Tavern, 1058 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. Admission is by donation and funds raised will help pay medical bills for Atlanta blues singer Cora Mae "Sweet Petunia" Bryant, who is suffering from a stroke. Call 404-874-8745.

Vigil to shed light on domestic violence

The Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence will hold a candlelight vigil from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday behind the historic courthouse in downtown Decatur. The vigil will act as a memorial to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, and will feature monologues from the center's original production "Snapshots."

Participants are asked to gather at the gazebo at 6:45 p.m. The Women's Resource Center has worked since 1986 to provide supportive services for survivors while changing community attitudes that violence is acceptable. Call 404-370-7670.

Up With People show to benefit Gwinnett club

Up With People arts group will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. The group provides global education programs for young adults, and all show proceeds will benefit The Boys and Girls Clubs of Gwinnett County. Tickets are $25. Call 770-232-1174 or visit www.upwithpeople.org.

Sparkling night aims for higher cause

Morton's Steakhouse will host a sparkling wine and champagne tasting benefit from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the restaurant, 3379 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. Tickets are $50 per guest, and $5 from each ticket sold will benefit CORE-Wish, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Children of Restaurant Employees and partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Call 404-816-6535 or visit www.mortons.com.

Golf tournament to be held at area courses

The ClubCorp Charity Classic national golf tournament will be held Friday at several area golf courses. Atlanta-area golf courses included in the event are Country Club of Gwinnett in Snellville, Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, Laurel Springs Golf Club in Suwanee and Northwood Country Club in Lawrenceville.

All proceeds raised during the ClubCorp Charity Classic will be donated to The Muscular Dystrophy Association, The PGA Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and ClubCorp's Employee Partners Care Foundation. Visit www.clubcorpcharityclassic.com.

AIDS walk to be held at Piedmont Park

AIDS Walk Atlanta will begin at noon Oct. 21 at Piedmont Park, 1215 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. The walk is hosted by AID Atlanta, a nonprofit, community-based AIDS service organization. Registration for the walk is $25 per person. Visit www.aidswalkatlanta.com.