San Diegans who have been battling the AIDS epidemic since the 1980s might remember, in the early years, the AIDS Assistance Fund of San Diego County.
Created in 1984, the AIDS Assistance Fund (or AAF as many knew it) offered basic needs — such as food, clothing and shelter — to people living with AIDS, along with HIV/AIDS education and outreach. At the time, there were few resources for people living with HIV/AIDS, but with the AAF, they had access to the services they needed to live their lives with dignity.
One service in particular was a food bank for people living with AIDS operated by the AAF. In 1990, two food bank volunteers began noticing that many customers were becoming too weak to shop for the food they needed to stay strong. As the epidemic worsened, these volunteers realized that San Diego desperately needed a comprehensive meal delivery service for people living with AIDS.
Responding to this urgent need, those two volunteers decided to establish a nonprofit organization, named it Mama’s Kitchen, and began delivering nourishing meals to people who were too ill, isolated or emotionally devastated to provide for themselves.
With the organization established, the next step was recruiting volunteers to help prepare, package and deliver meals. This proved easier than expected. As ads for Mama’s Kitchen appeared in local newspapers and magazines, people from all over San Diego County came forward; each with a different story of how they were affected by AIDS, but a similar passion for helping critically ill members of their community.
Now with a small, organized army of committed volunteers, Mama’s Kitchen was ready to bring its mission to life. One of the original two volunteers who established Mama’s Kitchen later shared with the organization her experiences the first time she delivered a meal. Carrying a bag of groceries under one arm, a freshly prepared meal in the other, and a smile on her face, she rang the doorbell.
On the other side of the door was a 6-foot tall, rail-thin gentleman whose face beamed with joy upon seeing her. After helping her with the groceries, he couldn’t hold back giving her a huge hug, and as she held his frail body in her arms, she realized just how important Mama’s Kitchen’s message of hope and compassion was to so many people. The following is a letter the organization received from one such person.
Dear Mama’s Kitchen volunteers,
I wish to express my gratitude for the people who volunteer their time, patience, energy, and smiles. The people who deliver my food are always very nice to me.
It is nice to have even a brief friendly conversation with these delivery people. Sometimes it gets lonely. All of you add quality to my life and my days are definitely easier. You are truly wonderful people to be admired. Because of your dedication, I am sure you have saved countless T-cells by absorbing a lot of the stress I go through every day. If it weren’t for the volunteers I probably would go hungry most of the week.
Thanks for helping to save my life. Love, always and forever.
Since 1990, Mama’s Kitchen’s services have grown to include clients’ dependent children, and people who are affected by cancer. Within the first decade of service, Mama’s Kitchen delivered its one-millionth meal. The second decade marked its five-millionth meal delivery. While the world searches for cures to AIDS and cancer, Mama’s Kitchen is committed to supplying nourishing meals, friendly smiles, and a helping hand to people who are struggling with a life-threatening illness.