My Meeting with Bob

That was the voicemail that led to my first meeting with Bob two weeks ago.

Bob Burnside, a seasoned activist, sculptor, and community builder, founded Positive Resource in 1989, which merged with AIDS Benefits Counselors (founded in 1987) to form the organization that is now PRC. At the time, people living with HIV who were healthy enough to work were looking for odd jobs or part-time gigs to keep themselves afloat. So Bob, with just a word processor, started writing down peoples’ names and matching them with small jobs he knew about in the community. Bob’s gumption from three and a half decades ago is what created PRC’s Workforce Development program, which continues to help hundreds of people find work every single year. 

As I sat with Bob, I learned that he not only founded Positive Resource, but also spearheads community initiatives like the Corona Heights Community Garden and is the very talented artist behind the spinners you find hanging throughout the Castro, including the one behind Walgreens on Castro and 18th Street. 

Bob told me he is still working at 80 years old as your “Castro Handyman” though he doesn’t need any new clients because he has plenty. What he wants to do in his life now is to take care of nonprofits. As he said that, he handed me a check for PRC. In that moment, I sat stunned, in awe of Bob, this giant before me.  

As I have shared in the past, I feel my life is full of miracles. This meeting with Bob is one of them. Another is my meeting with George just last week at PRC’s Client Winter Celebration. George, a 70-year-old, long-term HIV survivor, told me he hadn’t worked for over ten years but he started taking classes through our Workforce Development program and now wants to work as an HIV peer counselor with PRC! In George’s words:

What a full-circle moment. 

Bob, thank you for your humanity and for paving the way for George and thousands of others who preceded him. You still have an impact on our clients to this day!  

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a bright New Year.  

Chuan Teng