When community-minded people take action, powerful change can happen. Ruth Brinker, our founder proved that in 1985 by cooking meals for her HIV+ neighbors who were too weak to cook for themselves. Project Open Hand is still here 31 years later, our team brimming with perseverance and passion to serve meals with love every day. And even after three decades of work, we hear client stories that remind us how relevant our mission is today.
As an HIV+ trans woman of color, Roxie knows what it means to struggle. Although she has weathered more than her fair share of ups and downs, Roxie has managed to transform her experiences into a powerful persona of true grit.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Roxie was eight when she came to California with her mother and five siblings. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, her mother abandoned all six children in separate parks throughout the city. As a result, she was placed in foster care, shifting from home to home. During years of shuffling, she met an incredible mentor that wanted to adopt her, but couldn’t because he was gay.
Roxie says, “He would have been a great dad. Meeting him was the only great experience I had in foster care. I encountered all sorts of abuse in the foster care system, but never from him.”
Emancipated at age 17, and determined to continue her education, Roxie joined Job Corps, a trade school where she studied business and medical clerical work. She was two years into her career when she was diagnosed with AIDS.
In subsequent years, Roxie battled homelessness, violence, and the stigma of being a positive trans Latina. Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, she became too weak to walk. She turned to Larkin Street Youth Services and her case manager immediately referred her to Project Open Hand.
She began to meet with a nutritionist at POH, and received groceries and delivered meals. Before POH, Roxie would go weeks without eating, and the side effects of her HIV medication were nearly unbearable without food. Roxie says, “At that time in my life, I couldn’t even get out of bed. If POH hadn’t brought me food, I would have died.”
“Imagine hearing, ‘I don’t care that you’re trans or gay. Here’s this meal.’ For people who are feeling lost, depressed, or confused in this world, not knowing when they’re going to eat next, POH literally changes everything.”
Now in her late 20s, Roxie is back on her feet, and working to help those with backgrounds similar to hers.
She concludes, “I got so much unconditional love from POH. I was never judged, and people actually wanted to talk to me there. I was acknowledged as a human being, and that can change someone’s entire world."
When we think of an example of what it means to not give up, we think of Roxie. And with support from our community, Project Open Hand will continue to nourish thousands more neighbors in need like her. Explore different ways you can show support today!