A memorial service is planned for September 16th to honor Ruth Brinker.  She’s the 89-year-old matriarch who founded Project Open Hand. The organization serves hot meals to people with HIV and other illnesses.

Brinker passed away on Monday of natural causes. The group’s Development Director Bob Brenneman told KQED News that Brinker was a fearless woman.

She started Open Hand at a very scary time here in San Francisco and at a time when a lot of people her age were figuring they can settle back and enjoy retirement.  She saw how the AIDS epidemic was affecting so many people and she knew she could do something about it and she just rolled up her sleeves and did it.

Project Open Hand now serves hot meals to some 7,200 people in San Francisco and Alameda counties every year. Brinker’s work has inspired the formation of more than 100 similar groups in the U.S. and abroad.

The current executive director of Project Open Hand posted his remembrance here.

The site for the memorial has yet to be determined.

Obituary: Ruth Brinker, Founder of Project Open Hand 10 August,2011Rachel Dornhelm

  • ifemadu

    she will be remembered by what she has done. Farewell

  • Liam

    Ruth Brinker sails right into the pages of history. May her soul reach even higher sites on her journey forward. Thank you Ruth Brinker on behalf of all the gay men that are not living to tell you how spectacular a human being you are. I will always cherish my memory of Ruth Brinker and Ralph preparing mails at Trinity Church kitchen in the early days. Her life saving acts which she shared so unselfishly with so many gave PWAs dignity and companionship. I was blessed to be driven throughout San Francisco by Ruth Brinker herself. When i told her i did not have a car she said she would drive if i hopped out and delivered the meals. I was full of fear and paralysis at that time and Ruth Brinker shared her light with me as well as all those she helped to live. Whenever i think of Ruth Brinker i am reminded of unconditional STRENGTH. I will always honor her name and strive to emulate her compassion. Bless you great woman. Rest in eternal peace.

  • Ruth was a beautiful person. I had the fortunate pleasure to work with her as an art instructor a few years ago. She was caring, outgoing, and sensitive all the way to the end. thanks Ruth for your contribution to this world.

  • Sheri Sooy

    On my birthday, December 1st, also World Aids Day, my husband and I were in attendance at The Grove when Ruth was honored with the Jefferson Award. After the program, we waited so I could meet her. She had been one of my heroes since the eighties when I read the article in the Chron about Ruth Brinker and her generousity. I waited my turn and stepped up and held out my hand and introduced myself and told her how very special I thought she was. She took my hands and said softly, “I just don’t know what all the fuss is about”. What a gift she was…to so many! The world has lost a very dear woman…


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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