Maria Lozada arrives at the Spring Garden Street office every day by 7 a.m.
She arranges the medications needed by homebound clients living with HIV or AIDS, and then checks who might also need a bag of toiletries or maybe some food before loading up the van.
And then she’s off — masked but merry as she spends hours making deliveries from North Philadelphia to Upper Darby.
Stop after stop she asks clients: How you doing?
Is there anything else you need?
You OK? You good?
Sometimes it’s just a little small talk, a brief but much appreciated connection with clients whose compromised health has made it even harder for them to venture out in the midst of the coronavirus.
“It’s not just about the food and medication — it’s about having someone to talk to during these scary times,” said Lozada.
Lozada is a treatment adherence specialist at Bebashi – Transition to Hope, a full-service HIV/AIDS organization that for 35 years has served low-income people of color.
Through rain or shine or, now, a pandemic.
When I heard about Lozada delivering medications at the peak of lockdown to clients who would normally pick them up at the office, it was a nice reminder that despite all the bad these days, there is still a lot of of good, and good people, in the world.
And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take every reminder I can get. I’m serious about that — so if you come across anyone that can help put a smile on our faces or hope in our hearts, let me know at email@example.com.
For now, we have Lozada: a mmm-year-old, almost-lifetime Philadelphian (she was born in Puerto Rico) who has long dedicated her career to serving people in need.
And no, that wasn’t a typo you read. Lozada really, really, really didn’t want me to share her age and, well, I thought it was the least I could do for such a do-gooder.
Before working at Bebashi, Lozada, who lives in Nicetown, was commuting to a similar job in New York. Every work day she got up at 3 a.m. to get on the road by 5 to work a full day before doing it all again.
She loved it, but after a couple of years, the strain of travel got to be too much. A little over a year ago, she came to Bebashi.
“I feel blessed,” she said. “The interaction I have with clients is everything. I get to hear their stories and feel like I’m forming real relationships and friendships.”
One of those relationships is with Darnell Starr. In addition to health issues related to HIV, Starr, 51, and his wife and mother all got the coronavirus. He and his mother were hospitalized for nearly two weeks. His wife quarantined at home.
They all recovered. And when he was back home, there was Lozada knocking on his Southwest Philly door with medication, food and well wishes.
“I was really moved by that because some people were really stand-offish when they found out we had it,” he said. “She didn’t budge, she didn’t skip a beat. She just always goes above and beyond.”
Speaking of… While on the road making deliveries not that long ago, Bebashi’s van was hit and totaled by a drunk driver.
Lozada wasn’t seriously hurt. But true to form, she refused to take the following day off, and was back in the office by 7 a.m. arranging for alternative transportation to complete her daily visits.
She never thought of doing anything but.
“I just need to be helpful,” she said. “That’s what really makes my day, knowing that I helped someone and that they’re grateful that we’re in each other’s lives, that’s really what matters.”