Like many nonprofits, ASC relies upon the talents and goodwill of community volunteers and student interns, who advance our mission of "helping many, one by one" in countless ways-gift-wrapping mountains of presents for our annual Holiday Toy Drive, prepping and serving beautiful meals to hundreds of clients at holiday events, assisting with communications activities, sorting garments in our "Wonderful Wearables" Clothing Room, providing administrative support, and much more.
We spoke with three of ASC's interns and community volunteers about their experiences as part of the ASC family. Here, in their own words, are their stories. Once you hear what they have to say, we hope you'll consider becoming an ASC volunteer.
Anthony Tukai (Student - Rutgers University)
"I come from Kenya, where HIV/AIDS is a problem of great concern. With my undergraduate degree in social work, I hope to carry my skills in counseling, case management, support, prevention, and HIV education back home to Kenya to work with others infected with HIV.
"During my internship at ASC, I helped with intake assessments, escorted clients to hospital appointments, co-facilitated ASC's Health Issues Rap Group, and worked on the donor database. I learned about interviewing skills, how to successfully engage clients, and confidentiality issues. The clients taught me many things I did not know.
"I think the skills I gained during my internship at ASC will help me in my future career. I met people from different backgrounds, different countries, and different sexual orientations. ASC is such a diverse institution that I think people who volunteer at ASC learn and experience things that they'll never encounter anywhere else."
Mark McLaren (Freelance Musician/Musical Supervisor)
"After finding out about ASC during an online search for volunteer opportunities on Idealist.org, I first volunteered at ASC last December for a holiday gift-wrapping session. Soon after that I volunteered at ASC's Client Holiday Party, which had such a festive and elegant atmosphere. It's great that ASC worked so hard to make this lovely evening for families. It was spirit-sustaining and heartwarming to see how much fun the clients and their families had-and to be able to give them a bit of what everyone else gets during the holiday season.
"I've continued on as an ASC volunteer ever since, doing mostly office work (data entry and client satisfaction surveys) to learn about the 'nuts and bolts' of ASC and find out exactly what the agency does and who it does it for. I've been pleased with how much responsibility I've been able to take on. I volunteer once a week for a full day. As a musician who works mostly a night, that schedule works well for me.
"Right now I'm doing musical supervision for a tour of Cats. Volunteering at ASC echoes one of the themes that emerges in the show-that old adage about how the one who gives receives so much more than the one who receives. That's because, at ASC you're working on a great mission. You're working for an agency that's well organized and where everything you do feels very, very productive. It's great to give back and to work for a client base that really needs help."
Courtney Saunders (Marketing Supervisor - Time Warner Cable of NY and NJ; Co-Secretary - Cable Positive, NY Chapter)
Editor's Note: Cable Positive is a national nonprofit volunteer organization created as the cable industry's response to HIV/AIDS. In 2003, ASC was selected as the partner community-based AIDS organization of Cable Positive's New York Chapter. In addition to raising funds that support ASC's many programs and services, the chapter's members frequently volunteer en masse at ASC events and activities.
"At Cable Positive's New York Chapter, we really like the idea of helping local organizations. In our work with AIDS Service Center NYC, we are really connected to the people we're helping. We volunteer at ASC's holiday party and Thanksgiving dinner and that kind of involvement is not an abstract form of giving-it's very specific and personal and rewarding.
"ASC's seasonal events offer clients and peers an opportunity to simply be and to celebrate the season together. Many people do not have a family system that can support them, so they need a holiday party and a place to experience those feelings of 'family' and 'home.' For everyone who attends, these events are about making time to enjoy life. Because living with HIV/AIDS is not simply about suffering. Joy is so important in life. You have to give people that as well.
"Everyone I know who is involved with Cable Positive's New York Chapter is very devoted. What I mean by that is, we don't just want to give money-although we do that, too-we also want to give time, and ask others to give their time. Part of the reason we're so involved with ASC in a hands-on way is that we really believe that this is what we're supposed to be doing. We firmly believe in the importance of this work."
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at ASC, please click here. To become an ASC volunteer, contact Ernesta Pierre, Assistant Director of Marketing and Planning at (212) 645-0875 ext. 314 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that ASC distributes toiletry kits to our homeless clients as well as those residing in shelters, SRO hotels, and other transitional housing facilities?
Under the auspices of our Basic Needs Program, ASC provides more than 1,200 toiletry kits for men and women each year. The kits contain soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, hairbrushes, and other personal care items that our clients might otherwise have to do without.
If you have new and unused travel-sized toiletry items such as hotel soaps or shampoo, please consider donating them to ASC—and ask your family, friends, and coworkers to do the same. You can drop these items off at our main office during regular business hours or mail them to AIDS Service Center NYC, 41 East 11th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10003 - Attn: Planning Department.
Oscar, an ASC Peer Educator and member of ASC's Recovery Support Program, takes a moment out from the nonstop fun at the Family Picnic to strike a pose with his daughter and grandson.
On Sunday, August 20, ASC's Recovery Support Program, H.I.G.H. On Recovery ("How I Got Help") hosted its second annual Family Picnic in Central Park for nearly 80 participants and family members.
H.I.G.H. On Recovery services at ASC are peer-designed and peer-delivered, with the aim of promoting long-term recovery from substance use.
Open to all, the picnic reached out to men and women in early recovery, offering an opportunity to socialize and have fun in a drug-free environment.
"The Family Picnic is about relaxation, and quality time with friends and family, but it's also about helping people build camaraderie and realize a sense of purpose in their lives," says Eric Driver, Program Manager of ASC's Recovery Support Services Program.
ASC provided a bountiful spread of traditional picnic fare for everyone who attended. Children tested their skill in catch-and-release fishing at the Harlem Meer, families played games together, and volunteers regaled the kids with face painting. Participants received gift bags with information on recovery and risk reduction, along with materials on ASC's array of programs.
As a result of the event, a number of people previously unaffiliated with ASC have visited our main offices to pursue additional ASC services.
"We're thrilled with the outcome," observes Driver. "Events like these are especially meaningful for people whose history of drug use has left them estranged from their families and communities. People in recovery—especially those living with HIV/AIDS—need to break through their isolation and establish a network of peers who are going through same thing they are. That's what our program and events like these are all about."
Poetry Leaders (L-R) Iris Elizabeth Sankey, Sherry P., Monté Clarke, Shurland H. Aird, and Diane Dawson.
For nearly six years, ASC's Creative Writing Workshop has met weekly to help clients, peers, and volunteers find strength and healing through creative expression. Now, with funding from the Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation Trust, ASC has launched a Poetry Leadership Program that takes the Creative Writing Workshop one step further.
Through this program, five dedicated workshop participants received group facilitation and leadership skills training to enable them to become "Poetry Leaders" capable of leading the creative writing workshops on their own. Participants also received computer training to develop their Internet research skills and assist in the production of ASC's poetry magazine, Situations.
"The Poetry Leadership training took place this spring, and focused on workshop facilitation and presentation skills," explains Gerry Gomez Pearlberg, the workshop's leader. "The Poetry Leaders learned how to access poems online for class discussion and inspiration. They also learned how to develop writing exercises that promote harm reduction, wellness, and recovery."
For Poetry Leader Shurland H. Aird, the training imparted the skills to lead the workshop with confidence, while enriching his own creative process. "As a result of the training, my writing has got more body and soul to it," explains Aird. "I learned to take time in writing and to explore deeper. And when it came time for me to lead the Creative Writing Workshop on my own, I knew I had the skills to carry me through it."
Poetry Leader Diane Dawson said that leading the workshop on her own for the first time was a transformative experience. "I was so nervous, going over my notes a thousand times," says Dawson. "I got to ASC early that morning and when people came into the workshop, with all the eyes on me, at first I was overwhelmed.
"Then it just fell into place and it felt right. Doing the research, picking the right poem, learning how to engage the participants in conversation, going over difficult words with them, watching them learn something new—it was a rush. I felt the fulfillment of getting people excited about something. To be with my peers, interacting, feeling each other's pain, and encouraging each other was a really good experience. It made me think, ‘this is something I could do for the rest of my life.'"
Interactive activities like this climbing wall gave the kids a chance to "defy gravity" and explore the connections between science and daily life.
On Saturday, July 30, Goldman Sachs—a good friend of ASC—generously provided children of ASC clients with an all-expense-paid trip to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.
Through the corporation's Community Teamworks Program, 25 children spent the day at this renowned science museum, participating in interactive programs, viewing science exhibits, and enjoying an IMAX movie.
The outing, which included breakfast and lunch, was chaperoned by 40 Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks volunteers, several ASC staff members, and two Angel Wish representatives, including its founder, Shimmy Mehta. The excellent adult-to-child ratio meant that every child received caring, individualized attention throughout the day, enriching the experience for all concerned.
The trip gave the children a rare and wonderful opportunity to broaden their horizons and experience an array of new sights and sounds. These young people, who live in households where one or both parents struggle with HIV/AIDS, greatly benefit from the chance to take a break from their routine and just be kids for awhile, leaving behind the stress and worry that often characterize their day-to-day lives. Everyone on the trip thoroughly enjoyed the special day.
ASC is grateful to the women and men of Goldman Sachs' Community Teamworks for providing this generous gift to the children of ASC's clients. We are equally grateful to Angel Wish, which first connected ASC with Community Teamworks, and which continues to oversee and coordinate these memorable events.