by Dr. Gail Barouh
At LIAAC, we are extremely honored to have been chosen to be this year’s recipient of the Bank of America Elena M. Perez Memorial Grant. This prestigious award, which was presented to me at the 7th annual Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Awards celebration -hosted by the Bank of America at the NYIT de Seversky Mansion – was established in honor of former Bank of America associate Elena M. Perez. The grant is given annually to a nonprofit organization on Long Island that exemplifies Elena’s dedication to and commitment to the betterment of the Long Island community.
Elena took a tremendous risk by getting involved with the HIV/ AIDS epidemic at a time when few others in the financial industry were willing to take a stand. Because of her commitment to the cause, and her compassion, she was instrumental in helping members of the Long Island community who were truly in need of help, particularly the Hispanic and Black communities, which were hit the hardest.
Elena was affiliated with LIAAC for more than 10 years, serving as an esteemed board member. She was an unwavering leader, a vocal representative of her community and a consistently constructive influence.
LIAAC will use the financial support provided through this grant to expand our Nutrition for Life Program, a program that delivers meals to the homes of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. The grant will allow us to improve the overall nutritional health of our HIV+ clients and their families by increasing the amount of nutritious food we are able to distribute. This funding will also support our annual Holiday Food Drive, guaranteeing that LIAAC will be able to meet the request of every HIV+ client in need and ensure that they will be able to provide and enjoy a traditional holiday meal for themselves and their family during the holiday season.
Elena Perez believed that you can make a difference not only with financial support, but also by strengthening the fabric of the communities and neighborhoods where we work and live. As a special tribute to Elena, LIAAC has created the Elena Perez Food Drive; this project is designed to raise awareness among young people living on Long Island of the needs of people in their own communities. By involving young people in a community service project that will help eliminate food insecurity in some of Long Island neediest neighborhoods, we are not only helping them help others, but allowing Elena’s values of service and community to continue.