My first encounter with ACT (AIDS Committee of Toronto) was in its early days operating over what at the time was a KFC take-out restaurant. Compassion and information deep-fried! I was still living in St. Catharines, Ontario in those days, those early days of HIV and the upstart AIDS Niagara. I was a bit of a pamphlet junkie, always looking for a new way to convey what limited information there seemed to be about HIV and AIDS. ACT could be counted on for a variety of ways to disseminate such information, some of it with the blessing of government funders, some with a bit more of an independent streak out of necessity.
When I moved to Toronto, ACT had also moved to 464 Yonge Street, upstairs, north of College near the RBC branch which still exists today. There I remember wonderful healing circles taking place, Sunday evenings as I recall, where I learned the rudiments of Buddhism, mindfulness and Louise Hay words and songs (such as “I Love Myself the Way I Am”).
It was either here, or at ACT’s next move (to its present 399 Church Street address), that I began my volunteer work as part-time receptionist, fielding calls and in-person visits, enjoying an always-friendly rapport with staff.
Highlights of my care at ACT came in the 1990s when a certain senior nurse and sex therapist would make available her guest cottage in a beautiful spot on Lake Simcoe to support groups from ACT for consecutive weeks at a time throughout the summer. I traveled yearly with the Recovery Group, so-named for our mutual support as recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. In pictures of our earliest years, I am one only a couple of members to have survived.
ACT continues to figure in my life, even though I am no longer an active volunteer. Sometime after this holiday weekend I expect to be matched up with an ACT buddy for the first time in several years. This will be an old experience revisited, one which I very much look forward to. I also pledge to become involved in ACT’s regular “condom stuffing” parties for outreach work, where kits of condoms and other healthy things are stuffed into plastic bags for mass distribution.
I never think about 30+ years of ACT without being grateful for having survived just as long, while remembering with such fondness the many who haven’t. I miss you all.
HAPPY PRIDE! HAPPY WORLD PRIDE TORONTO!!!