Leos Feed into Helping Those Living with HIV/AIDS

The Coppell High School Leo Club in Texas reached out to seven non-profit organizations in their quest to find a community project. What they chose proved that a little kindness and conversation over a warm, home-cooked meal can go a long way.

On five occasions the Coppell Leos AIDS Supper Club in partnership with AIDS Services of Dallas provided meals to the 65 residents of Hillcrest House, a residential facility for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.

Isabel Mascarenhas, then president of the Leos and now service chair for the University of Texas Lions Club, was the driving force behind the effort.

Coppell Leos shop for a dinner they plan to make for residents of Hillcrest house, a residential facility for people and families living with HIV/AIDS.

The Leos made five visits to Hillcrest House in Dallas over five months, and with the help of an LCIF Leo Service Grant, budgeted US$350 for food and supplies per visit. The grants are available to support service projects that are developed and implemented by Leos.

The Leos planned each meal, varying them to include a Christmas dinner, Italian, Mexican, Chinese and American fare, did the shopping, cooked the meals, and served them, visiting with the residents at each dinner. They began with menu planning, then grocery shopping on Friday, preparations at Leos’ homes on Saturday, and cooking and serving on Sunday, ending only when the leftovers were packaged for the residents.

The high schoolers weren’t great cooks, but they knew the value of a home-cooked meal.

“None of us were amazing cooks, but the people appreciated it, and we enjoyed it,” says Mascarenhas. “There is a lot of stigma around people living with AIDS. It was an eye-opening experience to speak with them on a more a personal level and get to know these people who have lived a completely different life than ours.”

Coppell Lion Dan Madden, in his fifth year as adviser to the Leo club, says the Supper Club project not only taught the Leos about implementing a project, but writing a successful grant proposal, and working together while helping those in need.

“It was a significant commitment for a high school club,” says Madden. “Our Leos did a tremendous job.”

Mascarenhas, whose father, Kevin Mascarenhas, is a Coppell Lion and an inspiration to his daughter, was named 2019 International Leo of the Year in MD 2X 1. She credits Madden for encouraging young people to stay in the 36-member Leo club.

“Not only is he there to make sure we get what we need and we get where we are supposed to be, but to share ideas for things that we can help with,” she says. “He gave us opportunity, and that’s an important part of being a Leo. … I’ll be a part of Lions forever.”

It was a big commitment for young people to make, but the experience has cemented a spirit of service that many of the Leos have taken with them as they’ve grown.