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Giving back has never felt sew good

Saturday, 16 August 2014 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Activism, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

“I want to continue to give back to the community and one of the best ways I know how to is through the Community Garden and now the new Community Sewing Project,” says Toronto's Dennis Hawkins.

Giving back has never felt sew good

Dennis Hawkins has been volunteering for the Toronto PWA Foundation (PWA) for more than 16 years and has created key PWA programs for other people living with HIV along the way.

Seven years ago Dennis was a lead volunteer at the Gift of Life Garden in Oro-Medonte for people living with HIV and those living below the poverty line. In 2012, he brought the concept of growing and distributing locally grown produce to PWA and within a few months, PWA’s first Community Garden was born.

Although Dennis has moved on from his role as coordinator of the Community Garden, he still holds PWA very close to his heart. This commitment can be seen through the Community Sewing Project which he hopes will positively impact the lives of people living with HIV, particularly HIV-positive women accessing PWA’s services.

Inspired by his selflessness, I felt compelled to ask Dennis how he came up with the idea of the Community Sewing Project and here is what he said, “Last November, I saw sewing machines for sale on the Shopping Channel and an advertisement for a contest called “New Year – New You” popped up and the prize was up to $10,000! To enter the contest, I had to write a story, and wrote that if I had won I would purchase at least 5fivesewing machines to start a sewing class for people living with HIV/AIDS in downtown Toronto. The judges were so inspired by my story and within the week they called me and said I’d won the contest and 10 sewing machines!”

Following Dennis’s extraordinary win, he researched various ASO (AIDS Service Organizations) across Toronto to donate seven sewing machines to and PWA was his charity of choice. Because of Dennis’s belief in GIPA-MEPA (the greater involvement and meaningful engagement of people living with AIDS), he felt the program would be best placed at PWA due to it being the largest direct and practical service provider for people living with HIV in Toronto.

The greater and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV is a strong part of PWA’s 5-year strategic plan and this can be seen through all PWA pro-grams which are not only created based on the needs of PWA members but are led and facilitated by proud PWA members themselves. Dennis is the perfect example of this theory in practice and he hopes to inspire his fellow people living with HIV to follow in his footsteps. “I want to encourage the heart of others by inspiring them to act,” says Dennis.

The Community Sewing Project is launching in the fall of 2014 and is expected to be a collabora-tion between PWA and partner organizations. To assist in the creation of the project, Dennis is actively involved in many of its aspects from reaching out to various ASOs across Toronto, to searching for fabric donations and sewing instruction books, to looking for volunteer sewing instructors to teach classes.

To find out more about this project, please contact Gareth Henry, Service Access Manager, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This article originally appeared in The Toronto PWA Foundation newletter.