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Holiday project aims to help southern Illinois families dealing with HIV

Aids photo.png
Southern Illinois AIDS Coalition
Billy Taylor of Carmi and Julie Robinson of Harrisburg work on the AIDS Holiday Project, which is taking donations through January 2.

The AIDS Holiday Project, which collects gifts, non-perishable food and grocery gift cards for families impacted by HIV and AIDS in Southern Illinois, is ongoing and continues until January 2.

The 30-year-old project serves about 100 low-income families a year in the 19 southernmost counties in Illinois and is operated by the nonprofit Southern Illinois AIDS Coalition, said Wally Paynter of Carmi, who is chair of the volunteer organization.

“We are trying to give a boost to low-income households impacted by HIV and AIDS, families that are struggling with disability, poverty and stigma here in rural Illinois,” he said

“We've helped thousands of people throughout the years, just with an all volunteer effort, -- give them a boost during the holidays,” he said. “Southern Illinois is a rough place to live with HIV and AIDS. Because people have to travel to go see a doctor, they have to travel to go see a caseworker. It’s not an easy place.”

Volunteers are willing to shop for such things as toys and clothing, he said. “We still have quite a few households, and quite a few individuals that still need sponsored. So we really need a boost right now, just to make sure that this project is a success,” Paynter said.

Supporting the project can be done by:

• Messaging the Southern Illinois AIDS Holiday Project through Facebook for a wish list for a household, call / text 812-480-0204 or email SIAIDSCo@gmail.com.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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