COMMITMENT AND COMPASSION PERSONIFY THE LIFE WORK OF BRAD BARNES
As Poverello’s Programs/Quality Manager, Brad Barnes has his hands full. But then again, he’s always had his hands full in terms of his life-long commitment to HIV/AIDS organizations and activities. And when you add the passion that he brings to everything he does, you can readily see why he is so valuable not only to Poverello, but to every cause that he’s ever been involved with.
Brad J. (Gammell) Barnes took his husband’s name when he and Christian married in January of 2017, “as it’s a very cumbersome process to change your name or add another name when holding a Columbian passport,” he explained. This gesture speaks to the character of someone who has always been concerned about the well-being of others. But independence and drive are also hallmarks of this self-starter. Brad was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, but traveled back and forth between Orlando (where his father lived) and Providence right after his parents divorced. “My father worked for Greyhound, so at age 14 I took the bus by myself to visit him,” he recalled. “He would coordinate in advance with the bus drivers so they could keep an eye on me.” The independence that both his parents instilled in him at an early age would serve him well, as his service career began right after high school.
Leadership and commitment to causes came early for Brad. In his senior year of high school he was elected the State Student Council President for Rhode Island. With this office came trips to Washington, D.C., to participate in activities with the national organization. Coupled with an avid interest in government and politics, it should come as no surprise that after graduating from high school in 1981 Brad moved to Washington with the hope of beginning a career in public service. “I didn’t really have a job, but I did have some friends who had an apartment there, so I moved in with them,” he remembered. But it wasn’t long before he got a job with an organization called “A Presidential Classroom for Young Americans” that promoted civics and service to country to young students. In 1983 he secured a position with the Close-Up Foundation, an organization that sponsored week-long programs in government and civics for thousands of high school students from around the country. “I just happened to be helping a handicapped student,” he recalled, “and because of what I did for him they offered me a position to help facilitate the program curriculum for handicapped, blind, hearing-impaired and special needs student participants. He held that position until 1996.
Since he had summers off, Brad spent most of his time in Provincetown and Boston, and while there got involved with Act Up and other organizations that worked to bring attention to the AIDS crisis. In 1987 he got involved with the Names Project, first as a volunteer and later as paid staff, and is still involved with this amazing organization to this day. In 1999 he moved to Fort Lauderdale to work at the Center One charity, but soon found his way to Poverello, and has been working with the charitable organization ever since. Brad was hired to assist with the intake of new clients, but soon moved to work in administration with Father Bill. In 2004 he was promoted into his current position as Program/Quality Manager. In this role, he is responsible for achieving health outcomes and best quality of service and care for the clients of Poverello. He is also responsible for fulfilling all grant requirements, starting new programs and maintaining current programs.
“I firmly believe in the core message of Poverello,” he said, “that your status shouldn’t determine who you are, and that good food as medicine can lift up your life.” As part of his responsibilities, Brad also integrates best practices with other social service agencies that provide services to clients afflicted with chronic illnesses.
In addition to his work at Poverello, Brad has been involved with the U.S. Conference on AIDS, and is a member of the Prevention Planning Council for the State of Florida through the Broward County Health Department. Since 2007 he has also been involved with the Broward County HIV Planning Council, serving as Vice Chairman from 2012 to 2014, and as its Chairman from 2014 to 2018. But it’s his work at Poverello that is most rewarding to him. “I’ve been able to bring all my life’s work into play here,” he remarked. “Poverello is constantly redefining itself and changing with the times to meet the needs of its clients. I really believe in what we do,” he added, “which is why I’ve been here as long as I have.”
Article written by James Stoup, Poverello Volunteer