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AIDS Groups Expand Services to Other Sufferers

Food & Friends' leadership also argued over the changes.

"We had some members who felt that we might be abandoning the gay community," said Suzanne Goldstein, president of Food & Friends' board of directors.

Maritza Sanson, who is recovering from breast cancer, places the meal delivery from Food & Friends into the refrigerator. With her is husband Luis Fernando Hurtado. (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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Since the expansion took effect, Food & Friends has prospered. Its budget has climbed about 35 percent since 2000 -- from $4.7 million to an expected $6.3 million in 2005.

In October, it opened an $8.7 million headquarters in Northeast Washington -- twice the size of its leased facilities in Southeast Washington.

The new facility -- with a large commercial kitchen, 10 walk-in freezers and coolers, and a covered loading area -- will allow the group to triple the number of people to whom it delivers food to 3,000 people a day.

It now feeds 1,000 in 14 counties in the Washington area.

The diversification to other illnesses also has enabled the charity to attract funding from organizations that wouldn't have given it a second look before, leaders say.

The Avon Foundation has donated $1.5 million -- half for Food & Friends' headquarters construction and half to help fund its services to breast cancer patients.

Avon Foundation President Kathleen Walas said her organization was impressed that the group had expanded into other illnesses after doing such a good job focusing on HIV/AIDS victims.

Food & Friends is "an organization for others of their type to keep an eye on," Walas said.

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