Growing up in England during World War II. I personally experienced poverty and saw the need for having people who cared and were willing to give to others. My maternal grandmother a petite lady rode her bike around her village offering her nursing skills and warm caring. She was my role model that helped determine my career in nursing. As a young girl I volunteered with the British Red Cross and at 16 worked in a children’s convalescent facility, with children from poor homes with chronic diseases.
I came to California at age 19 was married and had four children. When my youngest was 5 years old I went back to school and got my AA and RN. Upon graduation, I started working at the Orange County Medical Center in the Respiratory Intensive Care Unit. Despite being a single parent with four children, one with asthma, I knew that I wanted to volunteer so I became a volunteer with the American Lung Association of Orange County. I sat on their Board of Directors and many different committees. I learned about ‘not for profit ‘organizations and was appointed President of the Board. I went on to serve on the State and National Boards. For me, it was an amazing education I learned about every aspect of marketing, education, volunteer recruitment and retention, advocacy and finance. What I experienced as a volunteer is hard to describe but it really felt like I was part of a family that cared about each other as well as all those in need of our help.
In the 1980’s we began to see HIV/AIDS at the hospital where I worked and saw the negative response by many people including churches and elected officials, so I started a 501(c)(3), the AIDS Coalition to identify Orange County Needs [ACTION]. Together with a group of interested organizations and individuals we began the process of providing volunteer help for those infected and education for both medical and general public.
Early on we knew so little about the disease but struggled to work with the community. I helped to start the AIDS Services Foundation [ASF] to provide services and case management and AIDS Walk Orange County [AWOC] to raise money. My whole family has been involved with AWOC for many years.
As a volunteer, I also began to put to use the skills and knowledge I had learned through my association with the American Lung Association. I began dinners for HIV medical specialists, education programs held at quality restaurants and underwritten by pharmaceutical organizations. I also helped start “AIDS on the Front Lines” an annual event designed to provide needed education for healthcare professionals and other interested community members This event continues today. I wrote op-ed pieces for the LA Times and provided educational programs to organizations, schools, businesses, churches and elected officials. I went to Sacramento and Washington DC as well as the local offices of the local officials. I served on the HIV Planning Advisory Council, a Board of Supervisors appointed group, to determine the needs related to the epidemic in the County and how the Federal funds were best allocated.
My son was diagnosed with HIV early on in the epidemic and lived for many years with the disease. He began a website, before the internet started, as the bulletin board AIDS Education and Generalized Information System [AEGIS]. This was the only place to find needed information for many years and he also was involved with my work with AWOC and ASF.
After my son’s death in 2008, I had some personal and physical problems and my volunteer efforts slowed until this year when I celebrated my 80th birthday. I decided to once more become involved in community activities. I joined the board of directors of the Orange County LGBT Center and I am currently working with them to raise funds and help educate the community about the LBGT issues. Back once again as a volunteer I feel energized and grateful to be associated with so many dedicated caring individuals in this county. I would encourage anyone that has few hours to spare to find a niche that meets their need for personal growth and helping those less fortunate in the community.
If you volunteer I guarantee you will experience gratitude, camaraderie, and satisfaction.