Michael J. loves to give back to others. For that reason, the staff of the Food and Nutrition Services Program of the BronxWorks Positive Living Department nominated him for a special award. Michael was selected and received the award from Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. at the Salute to Volunteers event during Bronx Week (May 2012). He was honored for his exceptional service at the Positive Living Food Pantry, where he assists with pantry set-up and helps to make distribution run smoothly.
BronxWorks staff who work with Michael say that he is…
"…not only reliable and dependable; he is also kind, jovial, honest, caring, and understanding. He has never asked for anything in return for his work in the pantry and always treats staff members and clients alike with the utmost respect and care. Without Michael volunteering each week, pantry day would be difficult, chaotic, and dull."
Michael has come a long way from, as he states, the angry man he once was. In addition to the admirable qualities mentioned above, he proudly announces he has been clean and sober for over eight years now. When he completed the Harm Reduction program – which required him to meet specific goals for reducing risky behavior and living a healthier lifestyle – Michael decided to stick around the BronxWorks community because he clearly understood the benefit of being an active community member as a way to stay clean and grounded.
He knows that idle time can be dangerous and helping others is far more rewarding than sitting at home. When he’s not volunteering at the Food Pantry, Michael is at the Positive Living offices, supporting other program participants who are dealing with their own personal or health situations. He has been on both sides of the addiction struggle and, having dealt with his own struggles, can be helpful to others. It’s easy to see how Michael fits in with what he describes as a "great bunch of people": the staff, clients, and other volunteers at Positive Living.
Michael humbly states that "what was given to me was given freely," so he wants to give back. He enjoys what he does so much, he hopes to pursue a career as a counselor or in a field where he can continue to help others lift their lives and build their futures.
The Positive Living Department serves over 500 individuals annually, providing a comprehensive set of services for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, including: case management, medical follow-up, meals and nutrition services, assistance with housing, benefits & entitlements, financial management, educational and support groups, individual counseling, programming for families, and harm reduction. The caring and knowledgeable staff utilizes both in-house and community resources to help HIV+ individuals and their families improve the quality of their lives.
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