California: Agency Gives Women HIV/AIDS Support
March 27, 2009
Since 2000, the nonprofit HIV/AIDS education outreach and support agency Working Wonders has offered services to women, children, adolescents, and families in Cathedral City. When women walk into the agency, many are concerned about how the disease affects not just them but their children and boyfriend or husband.
"I was diagnosed with HIV back in 1993, shortly after my husband was diagnosed," founder Evelyn Hernandez Valentino recalled. "It was two weeks after we were married. My husband lost his battle with AIDS eight months afterward. At 29, I was married. At 29, I became a widow," she said. "At the time, I was working for the New York State Assembly house speaker. When I moved out here, I was looking for services. There were no programs designed by women for women."
"My first endeavor, I made and hung fliers for support groups," said Valentino. "I started getting phone calls, and I thought, Wow.' That's how Working Wonders came alive."
Working Wonders began initially in a spare bedroom in Valentino's home. That eventually became its office, and that is where Valentino met her first clients. Catholic Charities then loaned the organization office space. Several moves later, the organization's current location is more accessible to walk-in traffic.
Working Wonders has more ambitious goals today, such as expanding services to the eastern valley area, Valentino said. "Eventually, our big goal would be to have a family clinic, a clinic that provides more services than HIV services, but with an emphasis on HIV and AIDS," she said.
Empowering women remains Working Wonders' goal. "To me, [my clients] are my heroes," Valentino said. "Seeing a woman who walked in our doors and was broken, and some time later, after working with her, she is now empowered."
Desert Sun (Palm Springs)
03.23.2009; Rasha Aly