Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fighting AIDS One Book At A Time

I've been volunteering at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe while here in NY. I work in their book store on Crosby Street. I decided to volunteer for a couple of different reasons—I was inspired by our new President urging us all to volunteer in some way (have you?), I wanted to meet people and belong to a community while I was in a new place, and I wanted to do something to give back. My life feels so good and full right now—my cup runneth over bigtime—so it feels important to pay it forward.

Housing Works is a remarkable organization. As any of you know who have read my first novel, Traveling Light, HIV and AIDS prevention and care are a subject near and dear to my heart. Housing Works is a pioneer in Social Enterprise—where non-profits run businesses to pay for the services they provide and to spread awareness of their mission. What is that mission? To end the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness.

They provide lifesaving services, such as housing, medical and mental health care, meals, job training, drug treatment, HIV prevention education, and social support to more than 20,000 homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.

Through their Bookstore Cafe and Housing Works Thrift Shops (a chain of seven upscale thrift shops throughout New York City and now in Brooklyn) they contribute more than $13 million annually to support their own work (AND provide jobs to graduates of their Job Training Program).

Their Bookstore Cafe is a magical, cozy place. Small, warm, friendly with little tables and chairs tucked into every imaginable nook. The cafe is awesome. I love the sign painted by the cafe cash register: “Fighting AIDS one knish at a time” and “This cafe is volunteer staffed. That’s why we can’t find the vanilla syrup.” The store has wonderful events, many of which are free (like Tuesday comedy nights). Check out their calendar!

Everyone who works and volunteers there is interesting and has a sense of humor. I’m grateful to have met Eddie, Adam, Nick, Ryan, Zoe, Shirley and Chayla, and wonderful fellow volunteers Katherine, Carolyn, Dessa, Robin, Anna and especially Rosie! I will miss you all when I go. I’ll be back. And there’s talk of me possibly having a reading there for my next novel. Woo hoo!

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