A Letter about the Holiday Grocery from Heidi Morgan, AIDS Vancouver Grocery Coordinator
As I have recently passed my four year anniversary with AIDS Vancouver, I have been reflecting on the work that gets done here and the ways in which we serve the HIV community.
I started thinking about how many people in my family have done helping work. It’s a long line of nurses and various helping roles. My grandfather was a pastor who founded a church in Fort Langley back in the day. He spent his whole life helping people. He and my grandmother sure helped our family in many ways when my parents needed support.
I think that for a lot of us in the human service helping field, we are inspired to do this work for a lot of different reasons. Some of us have also lived the experience. Some of us have known what it is to go hungry, to be abused, frightened and isolated. To be bounced around systems that make no sense. Some of us have been so low that there wasn’t any more bottom to get to. We worried that what we had known as hope was this fleeting thing that was slipping right through our fingers. And when all seemed utterly lost, someone came along and helped us. Maybe many people. That helped so that we were able to heal enough, to be in a place where we could give back.
In our Holiday Grocery letter last year, you may remember me talking about how my dad was a client here. Coming to AIDS Vancouver with him was my first introduction to the Agency. I had been working in the non-profit sector since 2007. That was also the year that my dad passed away; 2007. That was the year that I decided I wanted to help the people who needed it most. It was a big year. The year I began helping people.
You never know what a family has been through by looking at them. You may not know the hard choices that they have had to make because of poverty and extremely difficult circumstances. Challenging choices made from desperate places. Maybe mental illness has divided the family, through no fault of their own. How could you know at that moment, that because of one family member’s addiction, they are very close to being on the street? You may not see a family struggling with those issues. It can be covered up so easily; masked. We humans are a proud bunch and who would want you to see those vulnerable places that we find ourselves in? Nobody wants to be perceived as weak. I remember once when although asking for help was the strongest thing that I did, it didn’t feel that way. I’m glad that I did though.
The first time I went to an HIV support group with my dad, I figured I was going in support of him. When I got into it, I quickly realized that it was definitely for me as well. When I started to share my stories with that group and process my own emotions, I knew then that there was no “us” (non-infected)” and “them” (infected). We are all affected.
We are all in it together. I appreciate that not everyone is able to come and do the kind of work that I am talking about. There ARE a lot of ways to help still. We help 1200 people living with HIV by supplementing their groceries year round. That includes providing nutritional support to their 238 children. I feel so much gratitude every day that someone came along and helped me enough that I could be in this place of being able to give back.
As we prepare of our annual Holiday grocery event, I am asking you to please help me help them. In this one much anticipated day, we will provide festive food for approximately 800 people and their families.
Please help us to provide them with not only food but a whole bunch of love as well. Sometimes it’s not what you do but how you do it. This is the center of the Grocery program here; food, yes, but also lots of love, dignity, and respect given freely.