Mary Foster began volunteering with Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP) in 1992, when her oldest son Robert was only 5 years old.
She volunteered as a “Resource Counselor” at the front desk and often brought Robert in with her as she managed BCAP’s Food Bank. At that time, it was located two buildings down the street in what was called “the Little House,” (the current location of OutBoulder County).
She took a few years off from volunteering to have her children Hope (now 20), and Patrick (now 18).
When Mary returned to BCAP, she shopped for the Food Bank, bringing her children along with her. She was a regular at Community Food Share, shopping for BCAP up until 2007, when she had a stroke.
Mary was in a wheelchair and was unable to speak when I visited her in the south Boulder facility where she was recovering. She has worked long and hard to regain her speech and mobility.
In June of 2013, Mary was ready to return to volunteering.It was an emotional day when she walked through BCAP’s front door with her son Robert (then 20) to discuss her new volunteer job of putting away BCAP’s weekly dairy order. I remember Robert saying it was really important to Mary to return because she missed helping and being a part of BCAP. He said he would be available to fill in if Mary wasn’t up for it some weeks, and so, with the support of her son, Mary slowly came back to volunteering more time at BCAP.
She is now a monthly shopper at CFS for BCAP’s food pantries and Robert has not needed to back-up her volunteer role for years.
Recently she met Frank Kogen, BCAP’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year, who volunteers both at CFS and BCAP, and together she says they are the volunteer “Dream Team!” They hit it off right away and Frank, whose beard Mary says reminds her of her father, helps her pack up wonderful CFS items to bring back to BCAP for the clients who access the food pantries.
Mary came in today to meet with me and we reminisced for a while and caught up. She laughed about her early involvement with BCAP’s Condom Squad, a group of volunteers wearing rubber “condom hats” who gave out safer sex supplies on the Hill and along Pearl Street. She laughed again remembering that when Robert was little, he too helped put safer sex kits together.
We reflected upon the progress made since Mary started volunteering, a time when clients were dying one after another. Now people with HIV are living so much longer and there is PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, available—a pill taken once a day to remain HIV-negative.
Mary enjoys working out in the gym, and doing yoga. She runs 4 miles a day now and is visibly proud of how far she has come since her stroke. This summer, her three children will all be out of the house and Mary says she is looking forward to more time to volunteer. “I love BCAP!” she says enthusiastically.
Mary, thank you for more than 26 years of dedication to BCAP. Your story is a part of BCAP’s story. BCAP loves that you raised your children to be a part of our story too.