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Boston Living Center records

Identifier: M209

Scope and Content Note

The Boston Living Center (BLC) records document the administration, fundraising, publications, programs, and events of the Center from its inception in 1988 to 2011, prior to its merger with Victory Programs. The records of the Boston Living Center contain material related to the Center's public programs and events with a strong emphasis on development and fundraising. The records range from 1977 to 2011 and consist of records from the tenures of all three Executive Directors prior to the merger. The collection contains advertisements, catalogs, contracts, brochures, financial statements, flyers, forms, grant proposals, handbooks, meeting minutes, memorabilia, photographs, press clippings, press releases, posters, programs, publications, reports, and scantrons. Electronic records include photographs and text files on floppy disks, data cartridges, and CDs.

Absent from the collection is significant record of BLC's artistic programs, while there is a larger amount of focus on the programs subsidized by the Ryan White CARE Act, specifically the Lifeline workshops. Also largely absent is information regarding group outings and the Respite Childcare Center/My Friend David's House. There is little information concerning the financial issues of 2008-2010 beyond Board of Directors meeting minutes. While the Lifeline workshops program is well documented, other programs such as the Housing Assistance program are sparser.

Series 1: Administrative consists of administrative records including Board of Directors meeting minutes, contracts with other organizations and the government, and materials relating to organizational roles and structure. Series 2: Development includes the files of the Development Department which document the names and amounts of donations from both corporations and individuals in spreadsheets and contact lists. Grant proposals and fundraisers are also documented. Series 3: Publications and Public Relations consist of publications by and about the Center including Centerpeace and Lifetimes newsletters and The Art of Living book. In addition, there are advertisements, press clippings, and public service announcements. Series 4: Program and Events include flyers, posters, and planning materials documenting programs and events such as the Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner and Lifeline workshops. Series 5: Audio-Visual contains public service announcements, commercials, event highlights and interviews on audiocassettes, DVDs, reel-to-reel tape, Betacam and VHS. Series 6: Memorabilia includes such items as hats, pins, and t-shirts from various events, including aprons from the annual Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner.


  • Creation: 1977-2011


Language of Materials

Collection is predominantly in English, material in Spanish is indicated at the file level.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Historical Note

The Boston Living Center (BLC) is a non-profit community center that provides services to all people living with HIV regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or handicap status. The Center aims to create a relaxing and uplifting environment to combat the negative physical and emotional effects of the virus. BLC strives to collaborate with the community and other organizations in order to eliminate the feeling of isolation prevalent among people with HIV. The Center provides over 50 programs and services, free of charge to its members.

The Center began as an idea in 1988 among people participating in the New England chapter of the AIDS memorialization and advocacy quilt project, The Names Project. Members of the New England Names Project, including Mel Reicher, Liz Hardy-Jackson, Natalie Provost, and J. R. McEvoy, met to establish an organization focused on assisting individuals with HIV/AIDS to experience life to the fullest, run by those with HIV/AIDS under the Massachusetts Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. The peer-run aspect being important, the by-laws stated a minimum of 51% of the Board of Directors had to be HIV positive. The Center was formally incorporated in June 1990 and Leah Camhi was selected as Executive Director in 1992. Timothy Bennett became the first Chairman of the Board. The original staff also included two other full-time and four part-time positions including a meal coordinator, volunteer coordinator, office assistant, cook, intake counselor, and programming assistant. By 2006, 21 full-time and 7 part-time employees were part of the organization. From its first office on the 8th floor of the Clarendon Street YWCA, the BLC grew to be the largest peer-run community and resource center for people with HIV/AIDS in New England. In 1992, it had 750 members, 200-300 of whom were using the Center weekly. By 1997, the membership was over 1,000; by 2006 the total membership was 6,000 with 2,400 active members. In 1995, the BLC moved into its current location at 29 Stanhope Street allowing it extra space to provide additional services. Portions of the property were also sub-let to other organizations. In 1996, BLC became the first AIDS program in New England to provide services on weekends. A year after its incorporation, the BLC had only 70 volunteers; by 1997, it had 900.

Financial assistance to establish the Center was provided by the New England Names Project and the People with AIDS Coalition. In subsequent years, the Center was funded largely by the Ryan White CARES Act of 1990 (now known as Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act). The Ryan White Program Part A provides direct financial assistance to cities deemed Eligible Metropolitan Areas (EMAs) with a high HIV diagnosis rate. The Center reported in 2001 that it received 65% of its funds from federal, state, or city grants while 35% came from philanthropic donations from individual donations, fundraisers, and grants from outside organizations.

The Center has provided weekly meals since its inception. The Meals Program provides six hot meals a week in a community setting as well as nutritional supplements and consultations with a nutritionist. In 2000, an average of 2,500 hot meals were served a month. BLC is the only Greater Boston AIDS service organization to provide weekend meals as well as regular weekly lunches, and food “to go.”

The BLC offers numerous other programs to assist and support the HIV/AIDS community. Basic services include transportation, haircuts, and information regarding new clinical trials. Employment support services including career counseling, job referrals, and an internship program are available as medication advances allowed members with HIV to return to work. Legal, financial, and housing consultations are also available. Women's programming includes the Center's childcare program, called the Respite Childcare Center until 2001, when it expanded its offerings under the umbrella name of My Friend David's House after member David Stokes. The program offers workshops geared to parents, counseling sessions, and referral services for those who are both living with HIV and raising a family simultaneously.

In 1997, the Center enlarged its educational programs by offering over 45 Lifeline Workshops on various topics both educational and supportive through a Prevention and Education Grant from The Boston Public Health Commission. Lifeline Workshops provide members with access to professionals that provide information and methods to increase health and reduce risk behaviors. The workshops were offered with varying degrees of frequency depending on their topic. Topics include medication adherence, housing issues, group therapy, and healing techniques. The workshops also targeted specific sub-constituencies such as women, Latinos, African-Americans, deaf members, and long-term survivors.

The BLC also focuses on artistic expression through art classes including drawing, painting, photography, sculpting, and writing. The Center has sponsored many art exhibits including a traveling photography exhibit in 1994, entitled A Day in the Life: Living with HIV/AIDS, which spent two weeks in Boston City Hall before traveling around Massachusetts. The Art of Living exhibit in 1997 featured visual art and writing by BLC members and was published as a book to raise funds for the Center.

The Center produces two publications, Centerpeace and Lifetimes (called Cornerstone for a short time). These newsletters focus on the Center's members and donors respectively. Centerpeace is a monthly newsletter written by members and staff and includes information about new therapies, volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, and provides a space for members to engage in creative writing. Lifetimes reports on the use of donor contributions (including the annual report), new programs, services, and achievements.

Social events and community outings offer a chance to get together with other members. One of the Center's most significant events is the Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner, an outgrowth of Peter Clark's 1987 Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner of HIV positive friends in the midst of the AIDS crisis. Peter Clark started hosting this event at the Roxy Club as a way for HIV positive individuals to celebrate the holiday together at a time where the stigma attached to the disease might keep them from celebrating elsewhere. The event continues to bring in large crowds and celebrity servers who assist as part of TIP Teams. The TIPS for Living Program is a fundraising concept built into the Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner where the volunteer wait staff's “tips” are used as donations for the Center. As part of the dinner, the Peter David Clark Award is presented to an individual who has helped further AIDS awareness.

The Center has successfully partnered with over 10 other organizations in the Greater Boston area to increase its services and impact. The Boston Living Center partnered with the Justice Resource Institute to provide mental health clinicians onsite, with Parents in a Pinch to provide on-call childcare, and Deaf Incorporated to provide American Sign Language interpretation. Other partnerships have included the AIDS Action Committee, Men of Color Against AIDS, Women of Color AIDS Council, and the North Shore AIDS Project, often referring members to these organizations' services.

In 2000, Cathy Morales succeeded Leah Camhi as Executive Director, followed by Valerie Tebbetts from 2009 to 2010. Financial issues in 2008-2010 almost closed the Center; it was kept open by an emergency fundraising drive and the leadership of Larry Kessler, founder of the AIDS Action Committee, who came out of retirement to help re-establish the organization. In 2012, the Boston Living Center merged with Victory Programs, a 40-year-old Boston non-profit that provides health and housing services to the homeless, though the BLC continues to utilize its own space.


Peter David Clark hosts the first Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner at the home of Kevin George.
The idea for the Boston Living Center is formed by members of the New England Chapter of The Names Project.
Initial kick-off function at Zanzibar.
The first issue of the newsletter Centerpeace.
1989 Nov 15
Grand Opening
The Boston Living Center is incorporated and resides on the 8th floor of the Claredon Street YWCA.
First Board of Directors Election
Leah Camhi selected as Executive Director
Peter Clark passes away and the Boston Living Center takes over the Celebration of Life Dinner.
The Celebration of Life moves from The Roxy/Silverado Club to the Hynes Convention Center.
A Day in the Life: Living with HIV/AIDS photograph exhibit.
The BLC moves to 29 Stanhope Street.
1995 Sep 18
Grand Opening
Lifetimes, a donor-geared newsletter, is produced.
Meal program expanded to include weekends.
The first Lifeline Workshops are held.
The Art of Living exhibit and book are produced.
Dog Day Afternoon fundraiser.
The donor-geared newsletter is revived under the name Cornerstone.
Cathy Morales succeeds Leah Camhi as Executive Director.
Dedication of My Friend David's House, an umbrella name for programs tailored to families with children.
Cornerstone is renamed Lifetimes.
Valerie Tebbetts serves as Executive Director.
Boston Living Center mergers with Victory Programs.


19.80 cubic feet (23 containers)


The Boston Living Center began in 1988 as a peer-run community center and meals program for individuals with HIV/AIDS. The Center expanded its outreach activities and now offers daily meals as well as many events, workshops, and fundraisers for the AIDS community. Its two largest events are their annual Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner and annual fundraiser Dinnerfest. Originally located in the Claredon Street YWCA, the Center moved to 29 Stanhope Street in 1995. In 2012, the Boston Living Center merged with Victory Programs, a Boston organization dedicated to the needs of the city's homeless.


The Boston Living Center records document the administration, fundraising, publications, programs, and events of the Center from its inception in 1988 to 2011, prior to its merger with Victory Programs. Records include advertisements, Board of Directors meeting minutes, contracts, development records (solicitation letters, donation tracking, and grant proposals), event programs, memorabilia, newsletters, photographs, and press coverage.

System of Arrangement:

The collection is organized into six series. Series 1. Administrative; Series 2. Development; Series 3. Public Relations and Publications; Series 4. Programs and Events; Series 5. Audio-Visual: and Series 6. Memorabilia.

Technical Access:

The collection includes a ¼” reel-to-reel tape, 1” reel-to-reel tape, Maxwell Betacam, iomega 100 zip drive, Sony QD2120 data cartridge, SyQuest 5.25” data cartridge, and Verbatim DC2120-Extra and MC2000 data cartridges. The Archives does not have the equipment to view these formats. The six floppy disks comprising the Boston Living Center Development Fulfillment Database in the Series 2: Development are not readable.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Received from Jonathan Scott, Executive Director, Victory Programs on January 6, 2014.


Further accruals are expected.


  • Bay Windows Staff. “Helping smooth the way for families affected by HIV.” Bay Windows, August 09, 2001.
  • Boston Living Center. The Art of Living. Prentice Hall, 1997.
  • History Project. “Interview with Mel Reicher and Liz Hardy Jackson of the Boston Living Center.” Accessed on June 12, 2015.
  • Irons, Meghan. “At HIV refuge, new hope and old face.” Boston Globe, February 18, 2013.
  • Leary, Christopher. "Living with Aids: New Hub Facility Offers Place for Dignity, Support." Boston Herald, December 1, 1989.
  • Victory Programs Incorporated. “Boston Living Center - Who We Are - History.” Accessed on June 12, 2015.
Finding aid for the Boston Living Center Records
Finding aid prepared by Jessica Bennett
August 2015
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US