Fall 2012

December 18, 2012


Dear Maitri Supporter,

It has been a particularly challenging summer for all of us at Maitri, having said goodbye to several of our hospice residents who died under our care…and learning of the passing of other former respite residents who achieved medical stabilization here, but whose condition slowly deteriorated subsequent to their release. We enter autumn with hope and optimism for our respite residents who continue to improve under our care, unconditional love and support for our current hospice residents and thoughtful remembrance of our dear friends who left us this summer.

While we continue to celebrate the renewed health of our stronger residents, this summer reminded us that AIDS continues to take lives in San Francisco, especially for the poor who have lacked consistent high-quality medical care and – increasingly – those for whom the long-term stress of the virus and medication to treat it finally takes their cumulative toll. You may be surprised to know that fully 9% of AIDS deaths in San Francisco now take place at Maitri.

Warm regards,
Michael Smithwick
Executive Director


“Maitri made me feel like a person again and that I mattered…”

When piano music flows throughout Maitri these days, we all smile knowing that it’s Nicki at the keyboard. Since she arrived at Maitri, Nicki has demonstrated why she is a much sought after entertainer – her graciousness, energy and talents are remarkable and reflect her rich history in many communities.

Her Virginia childhood saw her develop into a lovely, uncompromising, openly transgendered woman who did not try to hide the fact that she was not as she appeared. Nicki moved to New York at the young age of 17 where she took part in the Stonewall riots and was even a member of the Warhol Factory with her best friend, Holly Woodlawn, transgender actress and Warhol film “superstar” of the 1970’s. Nicki soon worked as a professional stylist and had many stars as clients who would eventually become life-long friends … such as Mary Wilson whom she met over 30 years ago at Fire Island (Nicki was performing as Diana Ross when Mary first saw her). But in spite of all the glamour, Nicki remained grounded and continues to value friendships over material possessions “since people can’t steal hearts like things”. This outlook has helped her deal with AIDS.

Maitri Resident

Before she came to Maitri, Nicki’s deteriorating health caused her to increasingly isolate herself in her apartment away from friends. Her t-cell count dropped to 40 and she became depressed which led to overeating, back pain, lethargy and a lapse in her antiviral medication regimen. She also had a mild stroke and heart attack during this dark period in her life, which included a stay at a facility that she describes as “a depressing place like a 1950’s TB hospital. ” Nicki shares that she had lost most of her self-esteem and motivation by the time she arrived at Maitri’s door.

Since at Maitri, Nicki has experienced what she describes as “warmth and love”, and stabilization realized through stress-free calmness. Nicki has embraced the sense of family shared with other residents, Maitri staff and the “wonderful” volunteers whom she relies upon for practical and emotional support. She now feels safe and free to “be herself”, and hopeful about becoming well enough to return to her apartment. Nicki’s self-esteem is now high, and attributes that fact to how Maitri has helped make her feel like a whole person again.


The glamorous Mary Wilson (yes, that Mary Wilson – formerly of the Supremes) recently paid a special visit to her friend Nicki and departed with more fans than ever! Mary met a number of residents while strolling down our halls and made a special stop to chat with a resident who was immobile and resting on the living room couch. All who met her marveled at her down-to-earth graciousness and were profoundly moved to meet the famous singer. As she was leaving, a request was made for a song and without hesitation, Mary responded with the chorus “Stop in the name of love… “!



Bingo! is the one exclamation that brings the broadest smile to the face of Maitri’s long-time volunteer, “Bingo Bob” (a pseudonym lovingly bestowed upon Bob Gordon by residents, fellow volunteers and staff members). While Bob has been presiding over Maitri’s Bingo Night since 1996, he has been a Maitri emotional/practical support volunteer since 1987 when Maitri was a much-smaller seven bed hospice located on Hartford Street. At that time, the staff consisted solely of Maitri founder Issan Dorsey, a cook, a registered nurse and one attendant.

In looking back at those early days, Bob slowly learned to put aside his fears of death and dying, of loss and – most important – the fear of opening up his heart and being vulnerable. He found each Maitri visit to be a valuable lesson, and is still amazed at the powerful sense of community that the residents have with each other, and how they live each precious day to the fullest.

Today, Bob shares his wisdom with other Maitri volunteers and advises that they must be honest and admit the emotional benefit that they personally derive from their time at Maitri, while letting go of their own agendas when they are with residents. He shares the Buddhist attribute that there is “no right or wrong way; only open and close way”. It may be sometimes hard to imagine but Bob practices these lessons during Bingo Night by experiencing “40-60 minutes of having fun in the present” with residents and other volunteers.

Bob understands that not everyone can be a Maitri emotional/practical support volunteer and encourages support in other ways such as making a monetary donation, a gift of toiletries or helping set-up and breakdown at special events.

Bingo! We have a winner!


“Maitri really feels like family to me…” – Lisa K

The kitchen was in high gear, the primping was frenetic and the furniture was rolled away to make room for Maitri’s Volunteer Appreciation Party on August 11, 2012.

In celebration of the incredible love and support unselfishly given by volunteers, Maitri hosted a lively gathering of over 25 guests who were treated to an afternoon of warmth and joy. Guests savored delicious food lovingly prepared by Maitri Food Services Director, Ann Kong and the kitchen crew, and dozens of special mini-cupcakes donated by LVN, Sabrina Middaugh. The highlight of the party was the premier performance of the Carrie Love Group. The band’s nine guitarists and four singers got feet tapping and heads bobbing to their pop tunes (Who could resist when the playlist featured “Ring of Fire”?) and a special “thank you” song written especially for the occasion.

Volunteer Coordinator, Stan Stone emceed the raffle of three donated Energy Work sessions by John Mullin, gift cards and AMC movie tickets, and handed out goody bags to all containing Peet’s Coffee and Jamba Juice gift certificates.

Volunteers are the life blood of Maitri who ensure that our residents get the emotional and practical support they need to deal with myriad issues. Whether it is accompanying a resident to a doctor’s appointment, going to the store for a bed-bound resident or just chatting with a group of residents to let them know someone is listening to them, Maitri volunteers are an essential component of our organization.

If you are interested in joining this cadre of extraordinary people, check out the Volunteer Page at www.maitrisf.org for more information or contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Stan Stone at sstone@maitrisf.org; 415-558-3004.



Major street reconstruction is finally drawing to a close in front of Maitri on Duboce Avenue/Church Street and is slowly revealing welcome street improvements started months ago. SFMTA has been extraordinarily accommodating to Maitri during this disruption and demonstrated appropriate sensitivity to the impacts on our residents, staff and volunteers. Using portable air conditioners donated by SFMTA, the air in our facility was alleviated of dust, also allowing us to keep resident windows closed as a buffer against the noise during the heaviest periods of demolition/construction. SFMTA informed us well in advance of infrequent evening construction, allowing us to plan movie marathons in the living room for our residents as a reprieve from the construction noise.

Once completed, surrounding Muni train noise will be reduced (by virtue of the smoother new rails), passenger “loading” islands will be enlarged, wheelchair curb cuts improved, and the whole area will be spruced up with new street lighting, street furniture and greening. By that point, the disruption we endured will be just a fading memory as we enjoy the new surroundings

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