Ellen King became the first Executive Director of SAVE, Inc. in 1990. Ellen had learned about HIV/AIDS when she volunteered with the Good Samaritan Project in 1989. At that time, she was the Executive Director of a housing and community development corporation that also provided home delivered meals to the elderly and disabled. Ellen asked the meal provider, a hospital cafeteria, if it would add a few more meal trays each day in order to accommodate homebound people with HIV/AIDS after hearing about SAVE Home. The hospital refused.
That refusal made Ellen furious, so she instantly committed herself to HIV/AIDS service. Ellen laughs and says, “I didn’t stop running or catch my breath for the next 10 years.” In the beginning, SAVE, Inc. did not have an office. As Ellen describes, “I carried banker boxes with the files in my station wagon, along with my dog, who often visited the SAVE Home residents.” She wrote the grant to expand SAVE Home in 1990 at her kitchen table on a manual typewriter that her mother had given her in 1970!
With the confidence she gained from that experience, Ellen continued applying for and received several more grants to build and renovate buildings and expand services, enabling SAVE, Inc. to respond to the growing need for affordable housing for men, women, and families affected by HIV/AIDS in the 1990s. She recalls that it was not an easy road in the beginning. “We weren’t welcome anywhere. It took years to be accepted. We were picketed, turned into the city for code violations, and our residents experienced a lot of harassment.”
Ellen was undeterred, however, and her passion for the cause paved the way for SAVE, Inc.’s success today. Ellen notes that “she got to be ‘the quarterback’ for an incredible team of volunteers, staff and board members and community advocates!” and along the way learned that “life never turns out the way you think it’s going to. You have to go with the flow, but always do the best you can for the common good.”
The common good is something that SAVE, Inc. still focuses on today thanks to Ellen’s invaluable contributions. SAVE Inc. is special because of Ellen King but very special to Ellen as well, you can hear it in her voice when she says, “It will always hold an enormous place in my heart.”