Honoring the volunteer efforts of Judy Polk at Southern Mississippi AIDS Task Force
Volunteer Service Grant Amount Awarded: $25,000
A good friend of mine, serving on the Board of Directors of SMATF (South Mississippi AIDS Task Force), was preparing for a big fundraiser and asked for my help contacting prospects for donations. I made calls, solicited and collected items from the various businesses that responded. This went well and when the day of the fundraiser arrived, I felt empowered and proud of what we’d accomplished. I continued volunteering at the agency until one day she asked if I would be willing to serve as a member of the Board. I accepted without reservation. Volunteering my services was a rewarding and fulfilling experience that was making a difference in the community
Six years as a volunteer and three as a board member have taught me a lot about myself and about the rewards of helping and enlisting others. When W.H.O. contacted us to let us know that our $25,000 Volunteer Service Grant was approved, I leapt for joy! This meant that we would have the resources to support the residents of Augusta House, a transitional housing facility for homeless and HIV-positive individuals. This grant has made it possible to continue to provide critical care and support services.
The grant has had a huge impact on the lives of the residents. When people come to us for help, they have usually fallen to the lowest level of despair, with little hope of survival. Our goal is to create an environment and opportunity for them to get the help they need and begin to rebuild their lives.
I am reminded of a personal story as told by one of our residents. Michael was 23 years old and tested HIV positive. "My family kicked me out after my diagnosis in 2012. I was homeless, without money, food or medical help. I was hopeless, terrified of dying alone. In 2013, my friend told me about Augusta House and my life changed forever. The staff loved me and supported me despite my illness. They put a roof over my head, gave me a bed to sleep in, regular meals, access to medications, and a safe environment. More importantly, they introduced me to a community of peers who understood what I was going through and gave me hope."
When people come to us for help they have usually fallen to the lowest level of despair. With our help they get a chance to have a life again.