AIDS Assistance Program – Food Samaritans was founded in 1991 with the goal of helping the most at-risk members of the Greater Palm Springs community – people who are low-income and compromised by HIV/AIDS. It recently expanded its services to include people suffering from cancer, MS, heart or liver disease, and other chronic illnesses. Its ongoing mission is to ensure that all AAP clients can continue to live their lives with dignity and self-respect.
The organization was initiated by a small group of concerned citizens led by the late Gloria Greene (who began feeding these desperate souls from out of the back door of her restaurant) and Jeannette Rockefeller, and remains a grass roots community-based organization. It is led by a very small staff and a volunteer board of directors who work to assure that the largest percentage of every donated dollar goes directly to client services. AAP raises 100% of its operational budget through private donations, community and local business support, special events and foundation grants. It receives no Federal or State funding.
AAP distributes $100 per month in food vouchers to each client. Each client is carefully vetted to confirm income and residency and some are randomly tested for illegal drug use. Vouchers are redeemable for all items except alcohol, tobacco or pet products. Clients may use these vouchers for food, household needs such as toiletries, hygienic products, and other personal items. Since its inception, AAP has distributed more than $9.5 million in direct client service to more than 2,100 clients. AAP clients get by on an annual income of less than $17,500, and most AAP clients rarely, if ever, make it off of the client list.
Living with a chronic illness is not easy. HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health challenge in the Coachella Valley and across the world. While some people who have a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS are able to work and maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle, AAP serves those who are unable to do so. Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, heart and liver disease all present similar challenges to those that must live with these devastating conditions. While there have been developments in treating these chronic illnesses, people who suffer from these are presented with daily challenges. AAP is there to provide comfort and support and improve the quality of life for those who need it the most.