Songs of the Season, what a fantastic way to put closure on 2022!

On Tuesday, December 6th, and Wednesday, December 7th, the 30th annual Songs of the Season filled Feinstein’s at the Nikko with two magical nights of music, community, and fundraising, all to support PRC’s lifesaving services. This joyful annual event was created 30 years ago by drag personality, producer, singer, hostess extraordinaire, and longtime PRC volunteer Donna Sachet, as one of her many ways to raise funds to support PRC. For the past six years, Songs of the Season has been produced by Donna’s good friend and community stalwart, Billboard recording artist Brian Kent.

Event guests were treated to incredible cabaret-style performances by Charles Jones, Effie Passero, Kenny Nelson, Kippy Marks, and Leanne Borghesi of both traditional and not-so-traditional holiday songs, original musical compositions, and witty comedy, all supported by wildly talented musicians Russel Deason and Roberta Drake. Donna Sachet serenaded the crowd with multiple songs, the reading of a letter from a young child who questioned belief in her existence, and multiple outfit changes to keep the crowd on their toes. Brian Kent entertained the crowd with a Jewish perspective of Christmas, and Sister Roma gave plenty of cheer with her Sisterly version of standup comedy. Overall, the atmosphere at Feinstein’s set the perfect mood for such a festive occasion.

We would like to thank everyone who purchased tickets or donated and our dedicated and generous sponsors: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, The Bob A. Ross Foundation, Brio Financial, The Powerhouse, Americorp Financial, The Edge, Mark Leno, David Helton, Lu Conrad and Jeffrey Stone, and the San Francisco Bay Times.  All together we raised more than $22,000 to support PRC’s integrated social, legal, and behavioral health services to help the City’s most vulnerable populations.  

We look forward to next year’s Songs of the Season and hope that you’re able to join the festivities.  

Full cast

If you would like to make a donation to support Songs of the Season, click here. All proceeds support PRC’s lifesaving, integrated social, legal, and behavioral health services to help the City’s most vulnerable populations. 

Songs of the Season – Save the Date

Songs of the Season is back, at Feinstein’s at the Nikko 

Now in its 30th year, “Songs of the Season” – a benefit supporting PRC, returns with star-studded talent, curated and hosted by Billboard Recording Artist Brian Kent.

This amazing cabaret show promises an incredible night of performances from a variety of locally and internationally recognized entertainers; all determined to make sure you feel the joy and excitement that comes to define the holidays! As always, prepare to smile, laugh, applaud, and even shed a nostalgic tear or two.

Tuesday and Wednesday, December 6 – 7, 2022

More details coming soon

6th Annual Mighty Real Gala, A Resounding Success

PRC is pleased to announce the extraordinary success of its 6th annual Mighty Real Gala on Friday, November 4, 2022. Taking place at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel and attracting nearly 330 guests, this incredible evening raised more than $250,000 for PRC’s essential services for San Francisco’s most vulnerable individuals. 

The overwhelming support of this year’s Mighty Real Gala is a testament to this community’s commitment to helping San Francisco’s homeless and other vulnerable populations with whom we work every day. It was a powerfully emotional and momentous occasion as we symbolically passed the leadership torch and honored our retiring CEO Emeritus Brett Andrews for his visionary leadership of the organization for nearly 20 years. I’m honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to share this moment with our community and by the love and support I’ve received.” shared PRC Interim CEO Chuan Teng.  

Highlights of the evening included a heartfelt and symbolic transfer of the leadership torch from CEO Emeritus Brett Andrews to Interim CEO Chuan Teng and impassioned and emotionally expressive speeches from Gala Chair and PRC Board Member Nichole Wiley, PRC client Stafford Hemmer, and Senator Scott Wiener. The sentiment and devotion for PRC’s clients and services was brimming throughout the ballroom. The festivities were ushered in by Master of Ceremonies extraordinaire Kelly Russell, who presided over an exciting live auction and Fund a Need, and the afterparty was energized by the entertaining seven-piece band, Last Wave.  

Guests were also treated to award presentations of the Outstanding Corporate Partner Award to the Law firm, Pillsbury, Winthrop Shaw, and Pitman, the Keystone Service Award to The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, PRC’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to retiring CEO Emeritus Brett Andrews, and the Sylvester Community Pillar Award to Latrice Royale. Between Tito’s specialty cocktails and a fabulous performance from Drag performer, recording artist, and reality TV Personality, Latrice Royale, the evening proved to be a touching tribute to those served by PRC’s services. 

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended and supported PRC during the live auction and Fund a Need,  our dedicated volunteers, and our generous sponsors: Janice & Thomas Berthold, Chevron, David McCrory and Andrew Chen, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, AT&T, DivcoWest, Eastdil Secured, JLL, JP Morgan, Kaiser Permanente, Nuveen Real Estate, Quest Diagnostics, Revel Architecture & Design, Brian Schneider and Robert Liberman, Stockbridge, TMG Partners, ABM, Allied Universal, ARG Conservation Services Inc., CBF Electric & Data, East Bay Rental Housing Association, Giampolini Courtney Masonry Restoration, Landis Communications, Inc, Metro Services Group, Newmark, San Francisco Community Health Center, Skyline Construction, and Transwestern. 

If you would like to extend your support of this year’s Mighty Real Gala, you still can.

Photo Gallery from PRC’s 6th Annual Mighty Real Gala


PRC’s Mighty Real Gala

PRC’s 4th annual celebration of Hope, Resilience, and Pride, returned to the elegant Four Seasons Hotel on Friday, November 4th, 2022 at 6:00 PM. This successful fundraising event raised more than $245,000 for PRC’s lifesaving, integrated social, legal, and behavioral health services to help the City’s most vulnerable populations.

A special thank you to our sponsors, everyone who purchased tickets, our honorees, and our incredible volunteers.


Another Step in Combating Stigma Based on Gender

New social security policy allows for self-selection of gender.

As part of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Equity Action Plan, on October 20, 2022, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Kilolo Kijakazi, announced that SSA will offer individuals the option to self-select their gender on their Social Security Number (SSN) applications and records. SSA is committed to decreasing the burden on those who identify differently from their assigned gender at birth. Acting Commissioner Kijakazi stated, “This new policy allows people to self-select their sex in our records without needing to provide documentation of their sex designation.”

Those who want to update their SSN records will need to apply for a replacement card. ( They will still need to prove their identity with current documentation, such as a passport or state-issued driver’s license or identity card. Although the gender field is not used in determining benefit eligibility, SSA is working with other agencies to allow millions of transgender people in the United States to update their most commonly used identification documents.

Unfortunately, the current SSA record system cannot include nonbinary or unspecified gender designation at this time. SSA is exploring options to support an “X” designation in the future.

This new policy began when President Biden signed Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation on January 20, 2021.


Social Security Implements Self-Attestation of Sex Marker in Social Security Number Records (Abigail Zapote, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner, dated October 20, 2022)

An interview with retiring PRC CEO Brett Andrews 

After two decades of visionary leadership, PRC’s Chief Executive Officer Brett Andrews has decided to retire. Since stepping into the role in 2003, Brett has grown PRC from a staff of 18 and an annual operating budget of $1.25 million to a staff of more than 300 and an annual budget of more than $30 million. 
Brett’s dedication and passion for improving the lives and the health and economic outcomes of thousands of San Francisco’s most vulnerable adults have been truly inspirational to those of us who have had the honor to work alongside him. He has given us the confidence to continue his legacy, For that, we are eternally grateful and ready to carry on. As Brett hands over the reins to a new era of leadership, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate him and thank him for his service. Brett will receive PRC’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award during this year’s Mighty Real Gala on Friday, November 4. We look forward to sharing this heartfelt moment with our community.   

Before his official departure, we took the opportunity to sit with Brett to get a glimpse of what the past 20 years have been like. We invite you to read what Brett had to share about the lessons he’s learned along the way. We hope you find his reflections to be as insightful as we do.  

As you reflect on your 20 years with PRC, what stands out to you the most? 

“In the beginning, one thing really stood out to me. San Francisco was the first city — particularly at PRC — where I saw folks go out of their way to volunteer. There was a devoted core at PRC and so many other nonprofits who, every time you looked up, were donating their time. Volunteering is one of the hardest things to get people to do, yet there was this massive bank of volunteers, whether it was for Folsom Street, Dore Alley, the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation’s, Help is on the Way fundraising gala, or the Academy of Friends, these wonderful folks were always there. I just marveled at how many people — beyond what they needed to do in order to keep their life moving forward — were willing to volunteer in the nonprofit sector. That remains something that is extraordinary to me.” 

What accomplishments of PRC are you most proud of? 

“There was an early decision we made as a board and staff that the work we were doing in HIV was relevant to a broader population. In 2004, we formally expanded our mission beyond HIV. The work of what was then the Benefits Counseling Program and Employment Services is now Legal Advocacy and Workforce Development. If it was beneficial and helpful to one population that was disabled, we knew it was relevant for another population, and that was behavioral health. Through making that pivotal move, we were able to serve a larger population. But it also availed us of many great opportunities. I think we were successful in taking advantage of those opportunities, and they allowed us to create the organization that we have today. It’s because we took that big bold move that more people have been able to benefit from our services.” 

Who have been the community leaders who have inspired you the most along the way? 

“Senator Mark Leno stood out to me early on. He’s gracious, and he’s generous. I remember receiving two lovely handwritten notes in 2003 when I first came to PRC; One from Gavin Newsom, the mayor at the time, and another from Mark Leno, when he was an assembly member that said, “Good luck to you! We really love and believe in PRC, and its important services.” Mark later invited me to the state building to talk about his interests, my vision, and what my vision was for PRC. Mark has always been a valued thought partner, which one needs because the Chief Executive Director’s role is unique in that sometimes you only have yourself. You have a board of directors that you’re seeking to show a great deal of confidence and leadership. You have staff and other stakeholders who believe in you and the vision, and then where do you go when there’s indecision? Where do you go when you’ve reached a crossroads where you really could benefit from some counsel and have it not impact who you are as a person or a leader? And I found Mark Leno to be that for me over the years. I very much appreciate him for his thought leadership, thought partnership, and just the way in which he moves in the world with an open heart, kindness, and humanity.” 

You are known for your ability to give inspiring speeches. What advice do you have for somebody that would like to be as skilled a speaker as you are? 

“For me, it was both a personal and a professional journey toward authenticity. I look back at times when I gave speeches or remarks at galas or commencements, and the best speeches I gave were the ones where I was most authentic. In my earlier years, I couldn’t be as authentic as I wanted or needed to be because I was still processing both my professional and personal life and what that meant. I was a black queer boy, and I was trying to show leadership in a world that was new to brown leadership. I was also dealing with my own health challenges, how to look strong and confident, and not show any weakness. Yet in the weaknesses was often where the answers came from, and not just in a performative way. My recommendation for everyone is that you must have the courage to step into that authenticity. It’s not easy work. It’s hard. But over the years, I’ve been more pleased with myself and the consistency of the speeches I’ve given because I know they are a direct result of the work that I have done to be more authentic.”  

Would you say that it’s important to embrace vulnerability? 

“It’s about being courageous enough to be vulnerable around people, particularly those who you may not know well while understanding that one must still be careful. But I was willing to take a chance because, at some point, all I was going to be left with was myself. You’re interacting with people who in many ways trust you to be authentic and to provide a framework where they can thrive and succeed in life. We live in a culture where we’re expected to put on a brave face, which is why I think PRC’s services are more relevant now than ever. When considering the mental health challenges that come with working so hard to put on that brave face, compared to what you ultimately end up with when you’re home all by yourself, you can create fissures and fracture yourself. We’re not tempered glass. We can’t go from hot to cold like that. We must be integrated. And these compartmentalized ways in which we live life ultimately can do lasting and arguably irreparable damage if you don’t address it. You must learn how to be an integrated person so that the “you” that one person sees, is the same person everyone sees, and that there’s a continuity of you. It’s important that there’s a throughline, a connection that says, I’ve met Brett and I know him. One of the greatest compliments that can come from that is having people who’ve known me over a period say, yep, that’s who Brett is. Those are his values. That’s what he stands for. And that process takes work.” 

Your compassion, drive, and determination to improve the lives, health and financial outcomes of our clients have been truly commendable. What would you like to say to the staff at PRC who will carry on in your legacy?  

“At times it can be very isolating in this job. A lesson I learned that I would offer others is that you’re not in it alone. It can be hard to recognize there are people here to support you, at all levels of the organization, from management down. So one: you’re not alone. Challenge yourself to reach out when you’re feeling alone. Find a colleague or two who you really enjoy having conversations with and know that you can bounce ideas back and forth in order to get through these periods of indecision and isolation. It’s important to be courageous and reach out for support along the way.” 

“Also, be unapologetic and proud of the work you do. Talk up the organization you’re working with. Talk about the work you’re doing and be immodest about the role you play in it. Many of the jobs we do aren’t celebrated so you can’t sit around and wait for somebody to come and pat you on the back or give some great sense of hope or wisdom or words of support. Sometimes you have to be that for yourself. Remind yourself: I’m doing an extraordinary thing here. I play a key and important role. I like the role that I play and I’m going to play it tomorrow and the day after. I believe in self-encouragement, and I was an old man before I learned that I was waiting for that pat on the back. I was waiting for the cheering on to success. As it turns out, it was always in there. It was already there for me. I just needed to do it for myself. So those are my words of encouragement.”  

“And to everyone who’s committed to staying in this work, In my eyes, you’re already knighted and canonized because you’re committed to doing the work but be modest about your contribution to the world. I think it was Marianne Williamson who said: “Your playing small does not serve the world.” 

If you could gather all the fundraisers and volunteers who over the years helped to build PRC into the organization that we know it to be today, what would you like to say to them? 

“I would say the work is hard and often thankless. That’s why it’s important to find the motivation inside of yourself. Because in the end, all of us in our own unique ways are seeking love: to love and be loved. I believe the root of it all — the volunteer efforts and the contributions — are based on the fact that we love and care about humanity. Let that be your true north. Let it be as campy as it may. Let nothing stand in the way of that. Let it be expressed in your words and your thoughts. And certainly, for everyone who has lifted a pen and written a check and volunteered, let it be expressed in your deeds. That’s our quest.” 

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We would like to thank Brett for his decades of guidance, compassion, and work ethic, and for his genuine heart of gold. Working in partnership with him has been truly motivational and rewarding on many levels. We believe that Brett has prepared us to remain successful for our clients for as long as our services are needed. Brett’s successor, Chuan Teng, has worked closely with Brett for more than a decade and shares his commitment to PRC’s clients. For those who have yet to meet her, we invite you to join us as we symbolically pass the leadership torch at our Mighty Real Gala on Friday, November 4th.

If you would like to honor Brett and his dedication to PRC’s clients, please consider making a donation in support of continuing his legacy.  

Brett Andrews Reflects on His Decades of Service at PRC Following the Announcement of His Retirement

Donna Sachet; the Queen of the Castro, fundraising powerhouse, fierce LGBTQ+ advocate, and longtime friend of PRC – recently interviewed PRC’s Brett Andrews to give readers of her SF Bay Times column a chance to learn more about how Brett views his twenty years of leadership at PRC.

Give it a read and you’re sure to feel inspired. We certainly are!

Joanie Juster, A Super Volunteer, Advocate, and All-Around Beautiful Human Being!  

Last spring, we sat down with Joanie Juster, one of our super volunteers, who was previously on staff and served on the board of the AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF), the precursor to PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program. Joanie has supported AEF, PRC, and so many SF nonprofits since the early 1980s. When we spoke, she had just authored an article about Jeopardy’s superstar consecutive winner Amy Schneider for her column in the Bay Area Times and had ventured to the Castro to grab some printed copies before meeting with us. We were thrilled to listen as she shared her history, experiences, and several old AEF newsletters that we had not previously seen.   

Joanie moved to San Francisco from Santa Cruz in September 1978 and landed a studio apartment in the Fillmore for an unheard of $210 a month. Her grandmother had lived in the area, so it was the only section of the city she was familiar with. Her move was only two months before the tragic assassination of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by Supervisor Dan White. Being so new to the city, Joanie still regrets that she was unable to make her way to the candlelight vigil from the Castro to City Hall.   

“I was watching it on TV and sobbing because I didn’t know how to get there to join them. I literally didn’t know how to find this march. And in those days, you had to call a cab to go anywhere but I didn’t know where to tell the cab to take me. I also didn’t have cash. This was before ATMs and debit cards so even if I could figure out how to get there, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for the ride. Ever since then, I’ve made it to every anniversary march that I was able to.”  

Joanie had long been active in theatre and through her charming and welcoming personality, has grown a large network of friends, many of whom are part of San Francisco’s gay community. She witnessed the AIDS pandemic take the lives of those around her, and she couldn’t just watch from the sidelines. The growing pandemic weighed heavily on her. She knew she wanted to do something to help but didn’t know where to start. Her first step was making a panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. She had been volunteering with them and continues to do so to this day. Her first AIDS Walk was in 1988. She has been actively involved ever since. The next step was becoming a practical support volunteer for Shanti Project, providing one-on-one care for Shanti’s clients. If there was ever a need for support, Joanie would provide as much as she could.  

Eventually, Joanie joined the AIDS Emergency Fund Board, and later as part of the staff, she issued checks sometimes for amounts as small as $7.00 per grant to pay utility bills, medical expenses, and housing assistance. She expressed how amazed she was that an amount so small could make a difference in someone’s life and keep them going another month.   

“That’s where I needed to be! Someplace where that little amount, an amount that even I could afford to donate, could make a difference for someone. That’s why I will always do grassroots fundraising, and that’s why I am forever devoted to AEF, which has now become EFA. My life would have been far less gratifying if I hadn’t done this. It changed everything for me. The people I’ve met have totally enriched my life: the living, and the dead. They’re all with me, all the time. It really does take a village, and we’ve all been a part of it.”  

One of the events that Joanie loves volunteering at most is the annual PRC client Christmas Eve Dinner. For more than 30 years, local hotels, caterers, and chefs have donated their time to provide beautiful foods and desserts for the event. Each year, more than 100  volunteers served more than 1,200 clients over multiple seatings.  Lee Harrington, who retired in December 2021 after 24 years as EFA’s Director of Client Services, would show up every year to sit and socialize with his clients and was known to never miss a happy holiday. For a few years, Joanie’s desk was positioned near Lee’s, and she shared how much she admired him for his dedication to EFA’s clients.  

“The fact that Lee stayed with EFA for 24 years is just epic. I really don’t know of any other way to explain it. That man is truly one of my heroes.” 

Joanie has a keen understanding of how important it is to document historical information, especially regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She took it upon herself to collect as many of the old AEF newsletters as she could. During the current pandemic, she found herself with some free time and organized her collection to provide complete sets to friends who value them as much as she does. She even sent a set of these newsletters to the Smithsonian after they had indicated that they had limited material documenting the early days of AIDS in San Francisco, and they were thrilled to receive them. She’s single-handedly ensuring that AEF’s history is never forgotten, and even has plans to digitize them so that anyone can access them.   

“What made AEF so unique was that it was built out of a grassroots community response. I used to run the school program, and we had dozens of schools bringing jars of pennies to Union Square for Every Penny Counts Day for a big public counting. It was amazing that all those kids learned about fundraising and compassion. They were able to learn about AIDS directly from volunteers who were living with the debilitating disease and would go out to the schools and tell them how their pennies help. Could you imagine doing that today?”  

During Joanie’s tenure with AIDS Emergency Fund, their sister agency, the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (BCEF) was born, and Joanie became part of that team as well. She continues supporting people with breast and ovarian cancer to this day. In 2020 BCEF became a program of Bay Area Cancer Connections (BACC), and Joanie is now on their team. She also continues volunteering for other organizations and causes.

Joanie truly has a heart of gold and inspires us all with her passion to be there when others need support. She still manages to find time to volunteer for PRC events, and we couldn’t be more grateful for everything that she does.   

If you’ve enjoyed learning about Joanie and the compassion that led her to a life of serving those in need, please consider making a donation in her honor. You can learn more about all of PRC’s services on our website. 

“Those little moments when you realize that you were a part of this client’s meaningful change, there’s no better feeling than that.”  

For decades, AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF), the predecessor to PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA), was guided by the expertise of Lee Harrington (will link to Lee’s blog post), who retired in December 2021 after more than 24 years in the role. Before he left, however, Lee single-handedly chose his successors to ensure that the program’s clients would continue receiving the same level of support and compassion they had become accustomed to. Last spring, we sat down with Martin Muneton, EFA’s Director of Client Services, and Evelyn Castro, EFA’s Client Services Manager, to learn more about the next generation serving EFA’s clients.   

It’s easy to see why Lee chose Martin and Evelyn to take over the reins of EFA, as both came to PRC with a deep history of supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. Although the pair were only three months into their new roles at the time of the interview, the connection between the two of them exuded a great rapport and confidence, traits that will certainly help them excel in continuing EFA’s legacy. While it will understandably take time for the duo to master the inner workings of EFA as they transition it into a new era, both agreed they have a good understanding of areas that could benefit from enhancements, and they have the drive to elevate the program so that clients remain the top priority.   

Getting to know the new EFA team is nothing short of a treat. The duo shares passions for staying active, competitive, and sociable as a means of stress relief. Martin has a history of participating in triathlons and keeps fit by going to the gym after work. On weekends he enjoys eating well, hanging out with his mates, and spending time with his boyfriend. Evelyn enjoys team sports, being outdoors, hiking, and riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers with her family on the weekends. Evelyn is a first-generation San Francisco native with El Salvadorian and Mexican heritage, and Martin grew up in London. Both feel a powerful sense of pride in giving back to the community.  

How did you both end up working at PRC?  

Martin: “I’ve known and worked with Lee Harrington and PRC for many years. We’re part of the same service provider community. I’ve been working with populations with HIV and with Lee since 1997 when he essentially conceived Emergency Financial Assistance, previously known as AIDS Emergency Fund. It was quite flattering that he saw me as a suitable choice to continue his legacy. Quite frankly, I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”  

Evelyn: “I came from a case management position with Catholic Charities after eight years as their accountant. When I saw the posting for EFA, it felt like the perfect marriage of my skill sets. I really like talking to people too, so I decided to take a chance. I feel lucky to have ended up here. Honestly, it feels too good to be true!”  

How did you two meet?   

Martin: “I met Evelyn while working at Catholic Charities. She was volunteering at the incredibly young age of 14. Eventually, she started working there as well, and then she ended up in my department and we became colleagues. When I think of how we transitioned into PRC together, it’s just bonkers!”  

How has the transition been?  

Martin: “It’s a familiar feeling here. I have a long history of assisting clients with HIV with subsidies. Because of my past collaborations with PRC and working with the staff here for many years, it’s been a smooth and easy transition. There’s still a learning process, however, and some aspects have been challenging. The hardest thing is that for some clients, it can be shocking for them to realize that they’re dealing with a new person. They don’t know what to expect. Fortunately, we know many of our clients from our past jobs and have already built a rapport with them. That makes things easier. They already trust us. But we don’t know them all.   

“Lee sustained this program for many years, and quite effectively. But there are processes that can be improved. We hope to implement an online system where clients can submit documents, check balances, and access renewal dates. Not all clients will be able to transition to such a sophisticated system, nor do all of them have access to the technology to do so, but this would be an incredibly helpful tool for those who can. We have a lot of ideas, but they will take time to design and implement.”  

Evelyn: “Anytime you start a new role there’s a period of transition. It takes time to settle in. But this is work that we are familiar with, and things are going well. The challenge is when we are unable to assist a client, either because they’ve exhausted their maximum for the year, or they are unable to provide the required documents we need for our funding. Most clients understand that these requirements are in place to protect the longevity of the program. But we want to help everyone, so in these cases, we explain that if we break the rules, then the system breaks down, and when they really need us, the funds won’t be there for them. We also refer clients outward when we know of other sources of funding available to them. We never simply turn a client away. If a client is unable to provide the necessary documents or has reached their benefit limit for the year, we tell them that unfortunately, we can’t help them, but we encourage them and offer whatever tools we can for them to help themselves. This way they leave knowing that we are doing everything we can to assist them. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be attentive to their needs and listen to their story.” 

It must be hard to tell a client you are unable to provide assistance.  

Martin: “Until we find an infinite source of funds, we sometimes have no choice. We do our best to provide referrals and information for additional services in these cases, and we work with them to make sure we’ve covered every available avenue. The best thing we can do when this happens is to be attentive to their needs and take the time to listen to their story. If we kindly and in a caring way tell someone we are not able to provide services but also provide options, resources, and guidance, they will at least feel heard and comfortable returning when they do meet the program’s requirements.”   

What aspects of your job do you find rewarding?  

Martin: “The fact that we can continue assisting so many clients per year is what I find rewarding. Evelyn and I have both seen the conditions in which many of our clients live because in our last job we checked in on them to see how they were doing. These clients really need our help. San Francisco is incredibly expensive, especially for someone who is already struggling financially. Any help is essential for them. They’re just trying to survive, like most of us.”  

PRC has several wrap-around services to support clients: Workforce Development, Legal Advocacy, and Residential Facilities. Have you found that you are able to refer clients to other PRC programs and move them along the continuum of care?   

Evelyn: “There are a few cases that have stuck with me. For one client, we were able to secure a two-week hotel voucher, which allowed them to stabilize. That was what they needed to complete the required paperwork, and then we were able to get them into rental housing. We were even able to assist with moving costs.   

“Another client, a San Francisco native, moved back after living overseas for a few years. They thought they had enough savings to get situated but quickly learned that was not the case. After ending up in shelters, they came to us for help, and we were able to get them a voucher for a week in a hotel. At the same time, we connected them with our Legal Advocacy team, who were able to help secure Social Security Insurance benefits. This person has since moved into one of our transitional residential facilities, and we are currently working to help cover program fees.   

“A frequent situation we encounter is clients who have no income and have been told that they don’t qualify for assistance. When asked if they have spoken with anyone that can help them navigate the legal portions of why they were denied, oftentimes they haven’t, and then we connect them with a member of our Legal Advocacy team. It’s a great feeling when we see them again after they’ve utilized the resources we’ve recommended. So yes, we frequently refer clients to internal and external programs, and do our best to help them achieve positive outcomes.”   

Martin: “We frequently interact with clients who are somewhat content with what they’ve got and don’t necessarily have the need or desire to move on to something else. They perceive that if they move on to something else or go back to work, they will lose their subsidies or benefits. They’re afraid, they are also getting older, and their health isn’t improving. So, these individuals would prefer to remain where they are. It may not be much, but they feel stable. Imagine trying to rejoin the workforce after a 20- or 30-year hiatus when you’re in your 50s, and the world has changed dramatically. It’s incredibly difficult and terrifying. For those who are long-time survivors, it’s hard for them to transition into something new, and many don’t succeed when they try. Others may want to venture into something different, and we encourage that.   

“Having worked with HIV clients since the 1990s, I’ve witnessed many clients cycle in and out of homelessness. They typically have multiple diagnoses, and it’s rarely HIV that keeps them on the streets. Most times it’s substance use compounded with mental health issues, and these people need far more than a single yearly grant to stabilize. Substance addiction really does take over their entire lives, their volition, and their willingness to change. That’s why it’s so important for our approach to be multifaceted, comprehensive, and fair as we assess our clients’ needs and challenges in order to refer them to the most appropriate services.”    

Do you have any insights as to how we as a society change this?  

Martin: “It’s foundational, and there aren’t enough support services to match the growing need. Incarcerating a person for substance abuse is not the solution. They need support and treatment, and there aren’t enough support services for mental health issues. We try to mitigate the pain and the lack of services, but it will never be enough.”   

Having personally witnessed these situations, and for many decades, what motivates you to continue and believe you can make change?  

Martin: “It’s the individual people that you can help. If it’s at least one person, that’s enough. Of course, we want to help more people, but the satisfaction comes from knowing that we’re helping as many people as we can. We may not be able to change the whole world or even the whole City of San Francisco, but we act in good faith. We do what we can within our means and resources and stay humble about it knowing that each of us is only one person.”   

Evelyn: “We take things case by case. The first time I meet with a client, perhaps they were crying and upset toward me because they needed a hotel voucher. Then they get the voucher and when they come in the next time, they’re happy, and this time they need assistance with securing a lease for housing. Those little moments that we share are the client’s low and the client’s high, and we got to experience them together. These little moments when you realize that you were a part of this client’s meaningful change, there’s no better feeling than that.”   

Martin: “When you act in good faith and show that you care, clients know it. If you are dismissive, they are going to see that too. It’s important that we listen to their story, and if we have to say no to them, we do it in a kind, compassionate, and attentive way. They appreciate that. It makes a difference. It doesn’t take much to be kind.”   

If you could tell all of society something about the work being done that they might not know, what would that be?  

Martin: “Don’t make assumptions. We all have a story to tell. Learn how to communicate and understand each other and be kind to each other. And this really starts at home.”   

Evelyn: “Living in San Francisco, your comfort is circumstantial. The comfort we can provide for these clients with just $500 really opens your eyes to everything we put value in. Our comfort comes from our everyday work on ourselves, and how we can work within society. When we’re cut off from those things due to mental health issues or limited resources, we lose our comfort. Appreciate what you have and do everything you can to make sure your comfort stays at your desired level, and help others when you can. All it takes is one lost job for you to lose your home or prevent you from being able to afford food. It’s those little things that we forget to enjoy every day, so don’t take them for granted.”   

Lee Harrington must be proud to know that his chosen successors are carrying on with the same level of passion and care that he showed his clients. PRC is certainly happy to have them as stewards ushering in a new era of services.  


PRC has changed the delivery of EFA services from a drop-in model to an appointment-based system. This adjustment allows for efficiencies that the drop-in model did not provide, both shortening the time clients spend waiting at the PRC offices to meet with an EFA service provider and reducing the need for multiple visits as clients are informed of the documentation needed for their specific circumstances prior to their appointment. Reducing the time needed to intake each client has allowed for quicker access to emergency funds and an increase in the number of clients that can be served.  

Additional information and the EFA Client Checklist are available below. 

EFA Client Checklist (English and Spanish) 

EFA Brochure (English) 

EFA Brochure (Spanish)

If you or someone you know would like to schedule an appointment with EFA, please call or e-mail:  

Martin Muneton
(415) 972-0857

Evelyn Castro
(415) 972-0858

If you’ve enjoyed learning about Evelyn and Martin and the impactful services they’re providing to EFA’s clients, please consider making a donation to support their work. You can learn more about all of PRC’s services on our website.  

AIDS Emergency Fund Continues Serving Clients as PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance 

As the city of tolerance and the birthplace of gay rights, San Francisco has been a sanctuary and home to hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals since World War II, when many landed here after being dishonorably discharged from the military solely for their sexual orientation. To this day, San Francisco stands as a symbol of hope for gay men, women, and non-binary individuals from less progressive towns throughout the country and the world. Sadly, San Francisco is also one of the cities most heavily impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has taken the lives of millions and continues to affect countless individuals to this day. At its onset, HIV/AIDS primarily affected gay men, who were not acknowledged or given assistance from the federal government, forcing them to fend for themselves.     

It is no surprise, therefore, that San Francisco spearheaded efforts for HIV/AIDS support services and medical advancements. San Franciscans have long been a leading example of how communities can come together to support each other. In the four decades that have passed since the first documented cases of AIDS, many of the grassroots organizations that formed in response have either merged with others or faded into memories. PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance program has stood the test of time and continues to support the basic financial needs for low-income HIV+ San Francisco residents.   

If you were living in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably recall seeing penny jars on the counters of local merchants, bars, restaurants, and offices, politely asking for donations. Simple displays prompted you to leave the change from your purchase or lighten your pockets to support a local cause. It was an effort spawned out of desperation by a community witnessing friend after friend fall victim to the deadliest pandemic of their time. These penny jars meant something, not only to the people wanting to help friends and partners, but to those who relied on these donations to pay for utilities, medical bills, housing, and even funerals. This “Every Penny Counts” grassroots effort was one of the many fundraising tactics utilized by the AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF), now known as PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program, which has distributed more than $35 million dollars to clients since its founding in 1982.   

Every Penny Counts Founder Fred Skau passed away in 1993

You may wonder how collecting pennies could ever translate into millions of dollars. Also, who collected and counted them, and who decided how much money to give to each person? How much does that amount of coins even weigh? These are all important questions that need to be answered. Starting with the easiest to visualize, 100,000,000 pennies, or $1 million dollars, collectively weigh 551,000 pounds, roughly the equivalent of 16 semi-trucks. Granted, not all the donations came in pennies. Other coins, bills, and checks were also accepted. Still, collecting and counting was no light task.    

Volunteers were the lifeblood of AEF by delivering empty coin jars around town, picking them up when filled, cleaning and sorting the coins, working directly with recipients of the fund, and writing grant checks. Each year on December 2nd, following World AIDS Day, hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, and even school students would gather in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza, then years later at Union Square, for Every Penny Counts Day to sort and count donations. Bodybuilders from World Gym would do the heavy lifting as coin bags were filled, and Radio station Wild 107 awarded a dance party and a mixer to the top two schools that raised the most pennies per student each year.   

In 1982, AEF’s first year in operation, $6,500 was raised, and by 1992 they were distributing more than $1,000,000 annually in the form of emergency grants to low-income individuals experiencing HIV/AIDS. To qualify for a grant, a client’s monthly income had to be less than $1,456. However, most recipients were living on $900 or less. Each qualifying recipient could receive up to $500 per year with a lifetime benefit of $1,000. Although the grant amounts seem small, they managed to keep people housed, their basic utilities on, and provide some relief to the already overwhelming stresses associated with the debilitating disease. By 1996, EFA was distributing more than $1.6 million annually with 75% going to requests for emergency housing payments, and the remaining 25% supporting utilities, medical bills, and funeral costs.  

In 1997, AEF operated with a four-person staff, donated furniture, and a phone system that was on its last leg. Still, they stayed true to their mission to assist as many people as possible. AEF was also operating at a deficit and for the first and only time, was forced to reduce grant amounts to $400 per year with a lifetime cap of $800. Grant amounts returned to $500 per year in March of 1998, and clients who had met the reduced lifetime maximum of $800 were informed that they could receive the additional $200.   

Providing nearly 4,000 individuals per year with a grant of up to $500 required AEF to raise an additional $500,000 annually, and collecting pennies was not enough. As HIV/AIDS continued taking lives and more people tested positive, the number of individuals needing assistance also continued to grow. Once again, the community responded by creating a variety of fundraising events in bars, homes, and community spaces. Some even put AEF in their wills, their final gift as many joined the ever-growing list of AIDS victims. The creation of the Bare Chest Calendar in 1994 joined the annual AEF Awards Dinner in funneling its proceeds directly to AEF grants. Ambassador James Hormel, who sadly passed last year, announced the Hearts of Gold Campaign at the AEF Awards dinner in 1997, asking the community to pledge recurring yearly donations of $500 or more to help support the growing need.   

In 2016, AIDS Emergency Fund merged with PRC (at that time known as Positive Resource Center) and was renamed Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA). PRC had been assisting HIV/AIDS clients since 1987 as AIDS Benefits Counselors by offering legal assistance in securing Social Security and disability benefits and helping to navigate through the cumbersome process. The merger was a natural fit for these two organizations serving the same population and provided a continuum of services that clients could move through on their path to better health and financial outcomes.  

The need for PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance continues to this day. To keep up, PRC has grown in its operations and in its fundraising efforts. It now partners with the city and other public funders, foundations, and corporate donors in addition to individual supporters. This growth has helped to secure the funds needed to provide individuals with an annual maximum benefit of $500 with no lifetime maximum, and the possible addition of a $1,000 stipend to assist with a deposit for housing or to prevent an eviction. We are infinitely grateful for the continued support of all our donors who make this grantmaking possible and remain forever thankful to the countless staff and volunteers who helped build AEF and bring it into a new era, all of whom have a lot to be proud of.  

If you enjoyed reading about the history of the AIDS Emergency Fund and its transition to become PRC’s Emergency Financial Assistance and would like to support our programs, please consider making a donation. You can learn more about all of PRC’s services on our website.