Volunteers gather for Community Volunteer Workday; Pay tribute to friends and loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS
Twenty-five years ago a small group of San Francisco residents representing a community devastated by the AIDS epidemic gathered in a dilapidated grove in Golden Gate Park to restore it and create a serene place where people seeking healing could gather to express their collective grief through a living memorial, an AIDS Memorial.
This past week, hundreds of supporters, volunteers and community leaders came together in “The Grove” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of what is now the National AIDS Memorial. A special ceremony paid tribute the original founders and honored supporters, including the City of San Francisco, who have helped in its mission to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who died from AIDS are not forgotten and their stories are known by future generations.
“Twenty-five years ago our community was ravaged by AIDS and we came together here in this Grove to heal and remember our lost friends and loved ones,” said Jack Porter, a 25-year volunteer who lost his partner Stephen Marcus to AIDS and was honored with the “Heart of the Grove” award for his years of dedication and service. “Today, this memorial has evolved into a national treasure for our entire country to remember, seek comfort and ensure that we always keep their memory alive in our hearts.”
The 25th anniversary tribute began with hundreds of volunteers helping landscape and plant trees and shrubbery on the grounds of the memorial, followed by a ceremony in the Circle of Friends in honor of those lost to HIV/AIDS and an emotional performance by members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Community leaders in attendance included State Senator Mark Leno, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, Phil Ginsburg, General Manager, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and Christine Pelosi, former National AIDS Memorial Board member & long-time supporter.
Since 1991, nearly 25,000 volunteers have donated more than 150,000 hours participating in monthly Community Volunteer Workdays and other events to support the National AIDS Memorial. Every third Saturday from March to October, volunteers ranging from the very young to the elderly come together to help maintain the Grove, clearing overgrowth, reintroducing native species and planting new trees, plants and shrubs.
That dedication, commitment and support set in motion passage of legislation spearheaded by U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 making the Grove this nation’s sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial. Continue reading