The Pacific Pride Foundation (PPF) is asking students to contribute to food and clothing drives for children affected by AIDS during this holiday season.
John “JB” Bowlin, volunteer coordinator for the foundation, said the organization needs volunteers to help sort and organize donated items during a toy drive and a clothing drive between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15. In addition to the toy and clothing drives, Bowlin said the foundation is participating in the Dec. 4 Postal Carrier’s Food Drive from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Donated food, clothing and toys from the drives will go to those receiving care from PPF’s associate organization, AIDS Project Central Coast (APCC).
Bowlin also said people can contribute to either drive by donating food or clothing between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Contributors can drop off donations for either drive to the foundation’s main office in downtown Santa Barbara at 126 East Haley St., Suite A11.
Any food contributions are welcome for the food drive, Bowlin said, but he said PPF is looking for new, unwrapped toys, backpacks, learning books and warm clothing such as scarves, hats and gloves for the clothing drive.
PPF is a nonprofit umbrella organization for the APCC and the Gay and Lesbian Resource Center (GLRC), which works with families and children with HIV/AIDS in Santa Barbara County. Bowlin said these drives, which PPF has organized for the last 10 years, will benefit local children infected with and affected by AIDS.
“We do this every year and [help] over 100 children in Santa Barbara County,” Bowlin said. “A lot of our families are migrant farmers or Latino families that have nine kids living in one household.”
Although a dozen volunteers – several of whom are students – have already signed up for the toy and clothing drive, Bowlin said he is hoping for at least double that number, and said he needs more volunteers for the food drive.
“The more the merrier,” Bowlin said. “The more volunteers we have, the easier it is to get everything sorted out. … Last year, we got a ton and a half of food … the food drive is really important and we need volunteers to sort and stock.”
Jessica Atwell, a fifth-year biology major who has been a weekly volunteer at the APCC for the last year, said food donated during the drive will go to the Necessities of Life food pantry, which is essentially a supermarket where those with HIV/AIDS can shop for free.
“People come once a week and get a whole grocery cart-full of free food,” Atwell said. “It helps them out because they have medical bills and this makes sure they have enough food.”
Atwell said she began volunteering because she plans to research AIDS in the future and saw this as an opportunity to become more involved in fighting the disease.
“HIV/AIDS is something really interesting and I plan on dedicating my life to the science,” Atwell said. “Actually interacting with the people has been so important. It’s one thing to study a virus in a lab and another thing to talk to people who actually have the disease.”
The experience has been extremely positive, Atwell said. She said she encourages more students to volunteer.
“It’s great people and they do amazing work,” Atwell said. “You get to interact one-on-one with people in the community that are HIV-positive. You make a difference in people’s lives. They tell you every time you see them, ‘Thank you, I wouldn’t know what I’d do without you.'”
Bowlin said volunteering for either drive is an opportunity for students to become more involved in their community.
“It’s important for them to see the whole community of Santa Barbara,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get to see that there’s a lot of need in Santa Barbara to give back to the community. We live in a very affluent area, and this is a part of the community that really needs support because of their health status and where they fall economically. … We service a part of the community that people don’t really see that much.”