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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Aids Alliance Holiday Support Lagging

By Rick Racela

WILDWOOD – The price per pound for turkey has increased to approximately 89 cents this year.
While this may not sound like a hardship to most, the added cents per pound is another hurdle that South Jersey Aids Alliance (SJAA) has to tackle in order to get turkey dinners on clients’ tables in time for Thanksgiving.
In addition to turkey dinners, SJAA organizes an annual holiday toy and gift drive. But just like the turkeys, getting enough gifts for each family has proved difficult.
Iris Ortiz-Alvarez, an SJAA community case manager, told the Herald in a Nov. 3 inter-view that the agency has historically asked the community to adopt a client family for the holidays. The alliance would provide a list of the family’s wishes, while keeping personal information confidential.
“This year the support from the community has been far less than in past years and the agency funds are not able to support all the members of all the families,” said Alvarez.
She said that this year the agency would have to downsize the holiday gift program to in-clude 67 children, aged infant to 15, of HIV positive parents.
According to Alvarez, the alliance has 57 clients from all over the county that actively par-ticipate in various services offered by the agency. Only those active members will benefit from the holiday drive.
A total of 76 clients are eligible for a Thanksgiving dinner, since included are those who were active but are not currently receiving other support from the agency.
“I’ve had some people request not to get a dinner this year. They got a free turkey at the grocery store or saved enough for a holiday meal and they had the agency give their dinner to a family in need,” said Alvarez.
The agency had used a local food bank that welcomed its clients twice a month for free groceries. However, that program lost its funding in 2004. The Wildwood location now uses a food bank located in Atlantic County to distribute meals to clients and their families.
“The holidays are especially hard on our clients, especially those on a fixed income. Cape May County is becoming increasingly expensive and so much of their money goes to paying the rent and paying the bills, that there is nothing left for luxuries like presents,” Alvarez said.
She said that a letter on behalf of SJAA staff and volunteers, asking for help from the local community was received well.
“We have a church youth group that will be making beautiful stockings and filling them with toys for the different aged children. And another church in Ocean City that has in past years pledged to provide a toy to each child,” said Alvarez.
But she said that there is still so much that can be done.
“If we could have people from the community come forward and adopt a family, that would be wonderful,” said Alvarez. “The clients are truly grateful for all the support that is shown to them.”
For more information on adopting a family please call the Wildwood office at 523-0024. Due to space concerns, donations of food, money and toys should be delivered to the main administrative office in Atlantic City. For directions or hours of operation there call 347-1085.
Thanksgiving food donations must be received by Nov. 15 and holiday gifts must be re-ceived by Dec. 16.
In addition to case management services, SJAA provides free transportation to medical and dental clinics, HIV testing, and other social programs. Alvarez said that with the help of Cape Assist they are planning the institution of support groups at the start of January.
SJAA’s Wildwood branch has operated for over 10 years and is the only AIDS organization located in the county.
For more information on SJAA, please refer to www.southjerseyaidsalliance.org.
Contact Huggins at: lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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