Kathy Roberts called the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey (ACSNJ) two years ago to volunteer; she had been retired for exactly 24 hours. In cooperation with the organization’s director, she developed a wish list of projects – things ACSNJ wanted to take on but did not have the staff to accomplish. Since that day, Roberts has been a full-time volunteer donating 40 hours each week for no compensation. She has worked her way down the wish list and helped the organization serve the community in ways that would never have been possible without her tireless efforts.
ACSNJ provides services and education for more than 3,300 people living with AIDS in a four-county area, which includes the troubled inner city of Camden. In service to ACSNJ, Roberts has recruited, organized, and managed hundreds of volunteers to pack and deliver more than 1,000 holiday food baskets, chaired the Phoenix Employment Project that gives AIDS patients skills and opportunities to return to work, and coordinated the development of ACSNJ’s long-range strategic plan. Roberts also chaired the Volunteer Coordination Committee to increase the number of volunteers by 23% by 2001 and represented South Jersey on the statewide AIDS coalition, which designs public policy on healthcare issues.
ACSNJ relies on government and foundation grants each year to fund its basic activities. Staffing constraints have prevented the organization from pursuing new funding (there were simply not enough volunteers to take on the time-consuming task). Roberts took on this task, although she had never applied for a grant before. Her efforts paid off, bringing the organization approximately $35,000 to serve people with AIDS.
Recently, Roberts applied for a $400,000 grant from a major national foundation to fund a comprehensive program for HIV-positive prison inmates. In developing this grant, she enlisted the support of the directors of four county jails, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the Health Officers Association, the county Freeholders Supervisor, and statewide HIV/AIDS consortia. ACSNJ is on the short list for this grant. However, even if the organization is not selected, Roberts has built valuable relationships that will allow ACSNJ to serve people with AIDS in the community for years to come.
Through her efforts, Roberts has increased services to people living with AIDS in four counties, recruited new volunteers, and brought energy and new ideas from her perspectives as a health professional, a mother, a respected community member, and a person who has lost a loved one to AIDS.