Queer News

Mad Respect: Open Hand Founder Ruth Brinker Dies at the Young Age of 89

Ruth Brinker was a visionary and fought off ignorance and fear of HIV in the very early years of the disease. Few people get all my respect, but today I put in all with my thoughts of Ruth. RIP you lovely lady. I blow you a big kiss.  A B

(B.A.R.) Ruth Brinker, the retired grandmother who in 1985 started delivering meals to people living with AIDS and went on to found Project Open Hand, died Monday, August 8 at the Eden Villa Assisted Living Facility in San Francisco. She was 89.

She died after a series of strokes and the effects of vascular illness, the agency said in a statement.

Ms. Brinker, who had retired from a career in food services, heard about a neighbor who had died of AIDS. She was shocked to discover that malnutrition was as much a cause of her neighbor’s death as the illness itself, and started preparing meals in her kitchen and delivering them to seven people, according to a statement on Project Open Hand’s website. Soon, of course, that number grew and others came to help her cook and deliver hot, nutritious meals throughout San Francisco. 

She started the agency with those seven clients and $2,000 from the San Francisco Zen Center and the Golden Gate Business Association. It later moved to Trinity Episcopal Church.

In 1987, with a $125,000 donation from the Chevron Corporation, the agency moved into a new kitchen and took over a food bank at 17th and Church streets. By 1988, Project Open Hand was serving 500 meals a day. In 1991 it served its one-millionth meal. MORE