26 years ago, Jeannette Rockefeller, Gloria Greene and Joanna Jakway had a vision; a vision of a community where people suffering the ravages of HIV/AIDS would never go hungry, and from this selfless objective created an organization that speaks to the needs of those with limited income who cannot afford proper nutrition for themselves and their families.
And so the AIDS Assistance Program was born, a labor of love from this dedicated trio, providing food vouchers for those in need living with HIV/AIDS.
All three humanitarians—now unfortunately deceased—brought with them different qualities and experiences.
Gloria Greene was the owner of Gloria’s, a Palm Springs restaurant popular among those in the desert’s gay community. Already struck by the suffering associated with HIV/AIDS, Gloria was known to feed those infected with HIV from the back door of her restaurant. She operated from the belief that even though medicines may help you live longer, if you don’t have proper nutrition and healthy food, your quality of life will suffer.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE APRIL ISSUE OF THE STANDARD MAGAZINE
Jeannette Rockefeller was a woman who never knew what it was like to go hungry, but her empathy for those who did was legendary. In addition to being one of the sparks igniting AAP, she was also a tireless volunteer to that organization as well as others. Jeanette was the widow of Winthrop Rockefeller, former governor of Arkansas and grandson of Standard Oil mogul John D. Rockefeller Sr. Prior to marrying into one of the richest families in the world; she was Jeannette Edris, hotel and theater heiress. Despite her old money upbringing, Jeanette was a defender of the downtrodden and a champion of social causes.
The third component to this spirited trio, Joanna Jakway, was always involved in some kind of community service or cause. In the early 1960s she worked with the Head Start program and was also one of the co-founders of the League of Women Voters in Palm Springs. She then served on the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission for several terms, including one term as that organization’s chairperson. Decades later, Joanna was so moved by the anguish of those affected by the deadly disease that she decided to get involved with AIDS work. It was at that time that Joanna met Gloria and Jeannette, and the three became fast friends bound by a common cause that quickly grew into AAP. Joanna did not have a lot of money to contribute, but she had time, experience, dedication and emotion. There were no paid employees at the time and she became the office ‘staff.’ One of her greatest rewards was dealing with the ‘cold calls’—people who were calling because it was [at that time] the only listing in the phone book under ‘AIDS,’ usually people who were scared to death and had no idea where to turn.
Over the years, as the AIDS epidemic spread far beyond the gay community, to include men, women and children who are either directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS.
Today, AIDS Assistance Program / Food Samaritans has expanded their services and is a brightly-hued collage of caring individuals from all walks of life who blend their energy and talents to further the mission of AAP/Food Samaritans. The majority of the organization’s day-to-day operations are realized through the hard work of volunteers and organization Executive Director, Mark Anton. One client likens AAP to a family and admits that she “wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them [AAP].”
Perhaps Gloria stated AAP’s purpose best: “It’s such a simple idea: Help feed people.”
Portions of this article provided by The Bottomline May 2010
AAP – Food Samaritans Expands Reach and Adds New Clients
By Bob Bogard
AAP was founded more than 25 years ago with the goal of helping the most at-risk members of our community – people who are low-income and compromised by health issues – by providing nutritional support to these men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Initiated by a small group of concerned citizens led by the late Gloria Greene and Jeannette Rockefeller, AAP has continued to provide nutritional support to members of the community that need help the most. The AAP board of directors recently realized that there is a real need to help others in the greater Palm Springs community who are suffering with additional serious illnesses such as cancer, MS, heart or liver disease, among others. With this in mind, they changed the organization name to “AAP – Food Samaritans” and expanded services to add new clients to AAP’s monthly nutritional support client list.
These new clients go through the same qualification process, which includes income and residency verification and random testing for illegal drug use. It is important to note that many AAP clients rarely, if ever, make it off of the client list. AAP – Food Samaritans makes sure that these clients continue to receive nutritional support and live with the dignity that they deserve. Sadly, many die alone with AAP as one of their few remaining resources.
Each month, the total number of AAP clients varies. During the summer months, some clients temporarily move away to avoid the heat, but their food vouchers resume when they return. It is the same with clients who are hospitalized due to their chronic illness. AAP – Food Samaritans funds this nutritional support program through private donations and fundraising events, including the upcoming Evening Under the Stars on May 6.
AAP- Food Samaritans of Palm Springs remains dedicated to providing nutritional support to improve the quality of the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. For more information, please call 760-325-8481 or visit aidsassistance.org.
Martha Reeves & the Vandellas Headlines Evening Under the Stars
Martha Reeves & the Vandellas will be the headline entertainment for the 24th annual Evening Under the Stars gala, to be held on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the O’Donnell Golf Club in Palm Springs. The evening’s festivities will begin with a ‘quintessentially Palm Springs’ sunset cocktail hour on the grounds of the O’Donnell Golf Club against a backdrop of the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, widely regarded as one of the most festive cocktail receptions of the season. A short awards program will recognize a few inspirational honorees, followed by a delicious dinner, and a performance by Martha & the Vandellas. After their show, dancing will continue with DJ Jerry Bonham on the main stage followed by an amazing fireworks display.
Martha Reeves & the Vandellas are an iconic Motown group that had, in their heyday, more than 26 hits and were a constant presence on the music charts, as well as on television and in top music venues across the US and abroad. Ten of their songs reached the top ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart, and two were R&B number one hits. Six of their songs were Top Ten Pop Hits on the Billboard Hot 100. They are most known for their major hits “Heat Wave,” “Dancing In The Street,” “Jimmy Mack,” and “Nowhere To Run.”
Jerry Bonham’s love of music and career as a DJ began in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1976. His path has led him to spin disco hits at the Ice Palace in New York City and on Fire Island, then to San Francisco in 1989 where he played at Dreamland, Colossus (originally in the legendary Trocadero location) and later 1015 Folsom, Pleasuredome, and Spundae. He currently resides in Denver, and continues to delight fans at ‘Remember the Party’ events in San Francisco, Flagging in the Park at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, and other special events such as Evening Under the Stars.
Tickets for the benefit, priced at $395 and $500 per person, are available for purchase and individual VIP seats and sponsorships are also available. To attend or for more information, call 760-325-8481 or visit aidsassistance.org.
IF YOU GO
Evening Under the Stars
May 6 / 6:00 pm
O’Donnell Golf Club
Tickets: Call 760-325-8481 or visit aidsassistance.org.