Twenty-one years ago when the AIDS epidemic war raging, community volunteers banded together to deliver meals to relatives, friends and colleagues dying fromthe disease. On December 24, 1988, volunteers delivered hot, holiday meals to clients across Chicagoland — from Howard St. to the south suburbs and from the lake to Oak Park. From this grass roots effort, we have grown to become Vital Bridges. We now serve about nearly 2,000 people living with HIV/AIDS annually. Our mission to help low-income men, women and children impacted by HIV and AIDS improve their health has not changed. But today, in addition to food, we offer nutrition counseling and education, housing, case management, mental health and educational services.
Since our humble beginnings, we have provided more than 10 million nutritious meals, 600,000 nights of shelter and 250,000 hours of counseling. Each year, clients now receive 500,000 meals through our five grocery centers and home delivered meals services. Our grocery centers are located on the south, west and north sides of Chicago and in the suburbs of Oak Park and Elk Grove Village, touching those most in need throughout the metropolitan area. In addition, we carry out 800 nutrition assessment and counseling sessions, 10,000 counseling and therapy sessions and also provide 28,000 nights of housing.
Our services are cost effective — the food for one meal costs less than $1.30 and a night of housing only $50. Our clients' needs come first, and 82 cents of every dollar goes directly to client services.
Vital Bridges is still volunteer driven. While we have a professional staff of twenty-seven, our 500 volunteers, both individuals and groups, are critical to our service provision. Last fiscal year alone, our volunteers contributed more than 31,000 hours of service, equivalent to $413,832 in labor.
We continue to be a community-based, volunteer driven organization.