It all started in February 2002 when my friend Craig invited me to join him as a volunteer delivering food for A Loving Spoonful.
The mission of A Loving Spoonful is to ensure that no one living with AIDS in Vancouver goes hungry. It’s not simply a food bank that collects and distributes donated cans of baked beans and creamed corn. We provide nutritional therapy to people with AIDS (PWA) by delivering a weekly supply of meals formulated to meet their special nutritional needs.
Drivers are not simply delivery boys and girls. We are expected to look out for and report on changes in the clients’ health and emotional states. The mechanics are simple, but the actual experiences we have when we deliver food vary greatly.
Craig and I deliver to the West End and parts of downtown. Like HIV/AIDS, A Loving Spoonful does not discriminate. Our clients come from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Some are members of the GLBT community and others are not. Some live alone in rooming houses and social housing, while others have typical West End apartments.
Some clients invite us into their homes to chat. Some don’t feel like chatting and we don’t ask why because we know they have enough to deal with.
Clients come and go as they are added or deleted from our delivery list. Sometimes we know that the ones taken off the list have died. Other times we hope they were removed because they no longer need our services.
One client kept himself amused by treasure hunting in dumpsters. His place was piled with stuff, and he once offered to sell me a toaster. He told us he had trouble keeping doctors. When we reported this to A Loving Spoonful staff we were told he used to live on the streets, and that some doctors would refuse to see him because he swiped umbrellas and old magazines from their waiting rooms.
Recently, we had a client in his early 30’s who was suffering from an infection that made him unsteady on his feet, disorientated and sometimes hostile. He had a huge black bruise on his forehead and his nails were overgrown and gnarly. His phone did not work and from the state of his apartment, it was obvious he rarely left home. It seemed like we were the only people who came by to visit him. We reported his state back to A Loving Spoonful, who tried to contact him. A few weeks later he was taken off our delivery list and we were told he had been found dead and alone in his apartment.
You think PWA are other people. You think that AIDS can’t happen to you, but when you see someone who lives a few blocks away from you, is close to your age and dying, it really hits home that the battle with AIDS has not been won.
Some clients have great support from friends and neighbours, while some are less lucky. In one high-rise building, someone had scratched on the wall under the elevator button an arrow pointing to a client’s apartment with “AIDS” written underneath it.
A Loving Spoonful sends each client a cake and candles on their birthday. A couple of clients have been moved to tears by this. I guess the birthday cake brings back memories or reminds them of their present troubles. In December, A Loving Spoonful delivers holiday hampers filled with donated goods, toiletries and other goodies. These hampers really cheer up the clients at a time when they must be feeling the most alone and vulnerable.
One client who has been around for years keeps suffering setbacks to his health, yet he manages to keep his spirits up. He usually invites us in to chat and we camp it up for him. One of us might tease him about the beefcake calendar on his refrigerator door, or Craig might make a nasty comment about something I’m wearing. I’ll bite back with some bitchy retort about one of Craig’s many rings or necklaces. This usually gets the client shrieking with laughter, and in that small moment we feel we may have made his day a little better.
Sometimes we ask him how he is able to keep his spirits up. He says there is no point in complaining, you just have to go on. This client and others live by that motto. They face a terrible disease with bravery and spirit.
I joined the board of A Loving Spoonful after realizing that this group doesn’t sit around debating bits of trivia. We make a real difference in the lives of PWA by providing them with the ability to get proper nutrition in their own homes. In order to keep up this work, we need your financial support to pay for the weekly meals, rent warehouse space and pay staff salaries. We also need volunteers to help with deliveries and fundraising.