Until There Is No Longer a Need, The Aids Food Store Serves a Community

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Spotlight on AIDS Food StoreEverythingLongBeach.com recently spoke with Thomas Whelan, Board Director of AIDS Food Store, via email. They talked about the inspirations and challenges of running a nonprofit organization in Long Beach.

How long has AIDS Food Store been around? Did it start in Long Beach?

26 Years, Yes started by members of Christ Chapel Church in Long Beach when others turned their back on those with HIV/ AIDS, they started by feeding members of the congregation and then grew to help members of the community.

Describe AIDS Food Store. Tell us a little about your nonprofit, your mission, the people you serve or your goals.

In 1985, a group from Christ Chapel Long Beach came together to address the issue of hunger in a community where many social service agencies were unable or unwilling to help. In November 1985, AIDS Food Store Long Beach was born, with a commitment that no one in the Long Beach area living with HIV/AIDS disabilities would ever be without food, love and support.

Our clients are men, women and children whose lives have been impacted by HIV/AIDS disabilities. Today, after two decades of distributing many tons of food to thousands of clients, AIDS Food Store remains true to its mission:

“Until there is no longer a need, the ALL volunteer staff of AIDS Food Store will continue to address the issue of hunger in the HIV/AIDS community, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Whether infected or affected, AIDS Food Store will never turn you away…”

Our clients are referred to us through many social services and governmental agencies. We ask for confirmation of diagnosis from a doctor, and that clients subsist on an income of $1500.00 a month or less.

AIDS Food Store relies on agencies, foundations, groups, churches, businesses and individuals to assist with ongoing donations of food, supplies and financial support. We receive no government funding and have no paid administration.

On the second and fourth Saturday of the month, clients are given a standard bag of staples selected for balanced nutrition. They then have the opportunity to select from a variety of other foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, pastries, breads, meat and dairy products. We approach this from a non-institutional perspective, at absolutely no cost to the client.

Today, AIDS Food Store is the longest serving HIV/AIDS food provider in Southern California. We served about 200 people a month.

How is AIDS Food Store different from similar nonprofits?

We offer our services in a caring, non-institutional environment. We get to know our clients and their needs.

How is AIDS Food Store involved with the community?

We host fundraisers throughout the year, through community partner restaurants, bars and other organizations, such as Paradise, Silver Fox, Pistons, and Long Beach Food Truck Festival

What are some of the biggest successes AIDS Food Store has had?

Our “Day in Paradise” is one of our most successful events we have had for the last 4 years.

What is the most rewarding part of running AIDS Food Store?

Interacting with the clients at the Food Store, and seeing the difference we are making in their lives. Seeing how their faces light up when they see a caring familiar face.

What are the challenges you face — as a nonprofit, as an advocacy group, or in your industry?

As everyone has been impacted…Financial and Food donations are harder to come by. Also grants are getting harder, as more organizations fight for the same monies.

What are the future plans for AIDS Food Store?

Expand our services to a larger part of the community and partner with more community businesses.

Do you have any special events or fundraisers you’d like to tell us about?

Aug 27th- Casino Boyale (A James Bond/ Casino inspired event) held at Pistons Bar.

Oct. 1st – A Day in Paradise-4 held at Paradise Piano Bar and Restaurant 20% of all Food sales will be donated to the AIDS Food Store.

How can people get involved with AIDS Food Store? What do you need — volunteers, donations, etc?

We can always use volunteers on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. Food donations can be dropped off at:

  • Christ Chapel Church of Long Beach
  • Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Center
  • Pistons Bar

What is the most inspiring advice that you received and who did it come from?

Lead with your heart and you will always be successful.

AIDS Food Store Details:

Address: 3935 E. 10th Street

Phone Number: 562-434-3425

Website: www.aidsfoodstore.org

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