Like so many here in New Haven, I have been a great fan of Dr. Curtis and Elsie Cofield for years. What an example they have been for so many of us who seek to exemplify strong ministry in the context of strong family. What a loss we all felt when Dr. Cofield went home to be with the Lord in March of this year.
I’ve known of Mrs. Cofield and the great work that she has done with the AIDS Interfaith Network, but I can’t say that I ever really knew her as a person. Over the years, she has always been the picture of cordiality, love, and Proverbs 31 virtue. It was always a pleasure to see her and exchange pleasantries in various settings but I was never close enough to feel her heartbeat. I can’t begin to tell you how blessed my wife and I were to finally just sit and chat with this mighty woman of God a couple of weeks ago. We both fell in love.
Mrs. Cofield was open and candid to us as fellow ministers of the gospel. The joys and the pain of ministry flowed among us as we chatted in her office. She didn’t hide the depth of pain she felt from the loss of her husband, best friend, and life partner of sixty one years. The pain is intense, and yet she presses on with the realization that her assignment from God must continue. Against a backdrop of personal pain and fiscal difficulties in these days of evaporating funding, the mighty woman with the mighty work unto the Lord perseveres.
Love genuinely and profusely flows at the AIDS Interfaith Network headquarters at
Mrs. Cofield fondly recalled the days when the funds were flowing and the help was abundant. All kinds of assistance was available on a non-stop basis. Group sessions were held on the hour. Masseurs, chiropractors, artists, acupuncturists, as well as experts in many fields of personal development were regularly scheduled to come and share their skills and knowledge. Back in the proverbial “day” these were paid positions. It was an exciting environment where personal growth and development were much easier to keep at the forefront.
Now, 21 years into this incredible community service to the downtrodden, Mrs. Cofield finds herself struggling to provide the two square meals a day and basic services for her clients. Thank God for the faithful believers in the work of AIDS Interfaith who continue to keep the work functioning through the giving of their time, energy and talents. During our meeting, we got to meet one such individual, Joan Roberts-Simms. She is the crucial housing go-to person in the organization. Robert-Simms has a reputation here in the city as a strong and effective housing advocate and a hands-on connector of people to housing. Unfortunately, the grant that kept her employed, like so many other grants these days is simply no more. And while she voluntarily gives away as many hours as she is paid for, she too needs to eat and live. The loss of her services at the end of November is certainly being felt. It’s just one more sign of the unfortunate times in which we all find ourselves.
Funding, as many of you know, is a constant battle. The reality that we all face is that monies that were once available may never be available again. I asked Mrs. Cofield if she felt that any of the services once provided by funding dollars could ever be significantly filled by a stronger volunteer base. Among the services where she would love to see volunteers rise up are:
- Grant Writers (first and foremost)
- Experienced Group Facilitators
- People who will “adopt” families in need
- Health Care Workers
- Anyone with skills or services that can be brought to the facility
To find out more how you (and/or your people, pastors) can personally rise to the occasion, call the AIDS Interfaith Network at (203) 624-4350.