MEET Andrea Learned – Former Face to Face Executive Director 1989

What motivated you to get involved with Face to Face?

I saw dear friends dying. I felt that something must be done and I was eager to return to Sonoma County. I believed I had the skills needed to be an effective Executive Director from my past job experience being a director with the Agency on Aging. Of course, I had no idea what I was getting into.

How has working at Face to Face left a lasting impact on your life?

I learned a great deal about love, life and death. I was just one of so many disparate people – clients, partners, volunteers, doctors, nurses, administrators, social workers, scientists, and parents who came together to find a way, who fought to make people understand and to make people care.

I learned how much every day and every hour matters, and to not lose sight of what makes each day special. The unnecessary suffering will haunt us for all of our days, the similarities to the COVID pandemic are striking.

Ultimately Face to Face’s beginning and later years is a tale of courage, of hundreds of people coming together and going beyond the call of duty to care for others.

What stories of your time at Face to Face still stick with you?

The individual “clients” whose bravery, laughter and connection to love and life made all the difference.

Early on making the “Big 3″ phone call….”Your son is gay, your son has AIDS, you should come right away. We can meet you at the airport and find you a family to stay with. Please come now.”

The friendships. The staff. The volunteers. The board members. The donors. The finances or lack of same. The endless fundraisers in unusual locations. Mud wrestling anyone? The doctors. Dr. Kubota, Dr. Netherda, Dr. Eberle, Dr. Toub, Dr. Erskine and others I may have forgotten.

Our ACT UP friends.

The politics. The opportunities to work with Senators Boxer, Feinstein, the Burtons, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey, Tony Fauci and their incredible staffs.

The institutional good guys who risked their jobs and reputations to help us.

The partners at Sonoma County Public Health, Hospice and the Home Care Agencies.

The education and prevention program, learning that when issues are confronted directly with information, when fears are aired and when attitudes are challenged, change occurs.

The somber reading of the names, the three second cadence with a list that just got longer and longer.

Every memorial service leaving me whip sawed, filled with memories, an ill-defined sadness, without time to relive each story. The laughter. “I can tell my parents I’m homosexual. I just don’t know how I am going to explain to them that I’m Haitian.”

Is there anything else you would like to share?

It was the best of times, the worst of times, and together we made a difference in many, many lives.