Making mothers’ lives around the world a little easier
Most people have not worked for their company or organization almost since the day it opened. Here at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), several staff members can remember those initial days, working for the organization almost from its infancy.
One of those people is Jeff Gaffney, Associate Officer and IT Administrative Assistant in EGPAF’s Los Angeles office. The Los Angeles area is where EGPAF got its start, in Elizabeth Glaser’s kitchen in Santa Monica. Jeff began volunteering once the then Pediatric AIDS Foundation moved into an office space. Nearly 20 years later, the location has changed, but Jeff’s dedication to EGPAF’s mission remains the same.
Back in 1994, Jeff Gaffney had heard of Elizabeth Glaser and her family’s struggle with HIV. Many people were familiar with the television show “Starsky and Hutch” that starred Elizabeth’s husband, Paul Michael Glaser, but he learned the full story through Elizabeth’s book, “In the Absence of Angels.”
“My daughter and Ariel were born in the same hospital (Cedars Sinai Hospital). My daughter was born four months before Ariel died,” said Jeff. Elizabeth’s daughter, Ariel, died at the age of seven due to AIDS-related illness.
After learning Elizabeth’s story, Jeff began volunteering at the Pediatric AIDS Foundation in August 1994. He answered the phones on Friday afternoons when he took time off from his business.
“Susan DeLaurentis held the orientation, and I ended up being a staff volunteer right from the get-go.”
In August 1994, Elizabeth was very sick. “Her health was deteriorating, so she worked from home and called into the office. Paul would call and ask for people, then hand the phone to Elizabeth.” In December 1994, Elizabeth passed away due to AIDS-related illness.
Despite Elizabeth’s death, Jeff’s connection to the Glaser family remained strong. Jake Glaser, Elizabeth’s son, was his roommate in 2004. Equally, Jeff’s commitment to EGPAF and Elizabeth’s vision of a world free of pediatric AIDS remains strong.
“Originally, I made donations [to EGPAF] through Christmas cards. Then my grandmother died, and I realized that time is short. I said to myself ‘Anyone can write a check, you need to do more than that’ because it meant a lot to me.”
Jeff went on to host Oscar parties benefitting EGPAF’s commitment to AIDS research, and has volunteered at every “A Time for Heroes” carnival since 1995. Jeff became a full-time EGPAF employee in 2003 after volunteering for nine years.
“In October of 2004, just after a year of working here, I did AIDS Walk Africa in South Africa and was blown away to see firsthand the respect the name Elizabeth Glaser had to people halfway around the world,” said Jeff.
Though he never knew Elizabeth Glaser, he feels that the work of the foundation she started has had a profound effect on the lives of women and mothers around the world.
“Its great to see what we have accomplished and what we have continued to accomplish. I think she’d be very proud of how [EGPAF]’s grown. I think she’d be glad that we’re making mothers’ lives around the world a little easier.
“How many people work for an organization where you look forward to the day you go out of business? I’d love to see the day where our help is no longer needed.”
Front entrance on Aug. 16, 1994, Jeff's first day
Jeff and Chris Hudnall, EGPAF employee, at EGPAF Oscar fundraiser
The whole gang at A Time for Heroes 1998
Jeff and his daughter at EGPAF Oscar fundraiser