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Local church delivers lunch monthly to AIDS patients in L.A.

A decade of charity

Posted: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Blair Uhl, left, spreads peanut butter on bread as he joins volunteers in the lounge of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Santa Clarita on Thursday.

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Pickles and pudding in hand, volunteers at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church packed a truck full of lunch sacks with sandwiches, juice and cookies. They weren’t just feeding the soul.

Thursday marked St. Stephen’s 10-year anniversary of monthly lunch deliveries to disadvantaged patients with AIDS.

“It’s a good way to use our hands and our energy,” said Richard Holdredge, a retired Saugus resident.

“We support the cause,” said his wife, Rosa Holdredge. “These kinds of connections are very needed.”

On the last Thursday of every month, St. Stephen’s volunteers gather to prepare fully loaded lunches and serve them at two Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center AIDS clinics.

Based on need, they divide 100 sandwiches between the Rand Schrader 5P21 Clinic for HIV/AIDS and the Women’s and Children’s Aids Clinic. The downtown Los Angeles clinics are funded by the county to serve poor and homeless patients with AIDS.

But patients depend on the clinic for more than a monthly meal.

“We’re just a cog in the wheel,” said Malcolm Blue, founder of the AIDS lunches project.

The clinic directs a network of churches and organizations that provides weekday lunches for patients. Each volunteer group is assigned one day per month to provide and serve food.

On the few days that lack a volunteer group, the patients go hungry, said Muffy Rike, co-coordinator of the AIDS lunch project.

“Some of these people are very, very hungry,” Rike said. “There is no one there on the weekends to feed them.”

“I’ve never been hungry in my life,” said Rike, “but when people need three or four sandwiches to get through the weekend, I can understand that.”

“Everything is donated,” Blue said. From the pickle spears to the tablecloths, the St. Stephen’s congregation and The Church of Hope in Canyon Country have been donating enough food and utensils to satisfy the crowds.

“We’ve never had to appeal for money in 10 years,” said Blue.

At the clinic Thursday, 11 adults and five children served in assembly-line fashion a complete lunch with sandwiches, salad, fruit, chips, homemade cookies, candy, juice, water, utensils and napkins. Children’s lunches even conceal a small toy.

Simple surprises like watermelon and leftover Halloween candy make all the difference, said Blue, and whether they whisper or shout it out, patients give sincere thanks.

“They rely on us for the food and conversation,” Blue said.

“We’re serving them in more than one way,” he said. “They don’t have to feel like it’s a handout.”

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