1615 Calle Canon
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
2nd & 4th Wednesday's
6pm - 8pm

About Quilt Project Gold Coast

About us

Quilt Project Gold Coast is a locally based nonprofit with an all-volunteer group and no overhead. All of our funds go directly to displays and HIV/AIDS awareness raising, and our volunteer efforts include information booths, displays at health fairs, churches, synagogues, colleges and festivals, as well as a speakers bureau and our very fun Quilting bees.

Board Members

Keith Coffman-Grey

President

Quilt Project’s Board president KEITH COFFMAN-GREY came to his decades-long commitment to AIDS activism after many years in Democratic politics. In fact, he was an alternate delegate in 1976 at the Democratic convention that elected Jimmy Carter!

But when his partner Mark Wilson was diagnosed with AIDS in late 1984, Keith’s life changed forever. “In 1985 AIDS Project Los Angeles was just forming,” he says. “We joined APLA’s couples group. It was a desperate time; AIDS was a death sentence, and we knew our time together was short.”

Mark died in January 1986, leaving Keith dedicated to AIDS education and policy so others didn’t have to suffer the loss of their loved ones. He heard about the NAMES Project National AIDS Memorial Quilt after Mark passed on. “I learned about the Quilt in Gay magazines and on the news,” he recalls.

It was in the mid-90’s that Keith met his future husband, Neil Demers-Grey, and joined NAMES Project Ventura County’s Board of Directors as treasurer. He worked statewide on AIDS policy as Central Coast delegate to the LIFE/AIDS Lobby of Sacramento, as well as advocating at the local level as both president of Santa Barbara Stonewall Democrats and chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee.

After Neil was diagnosed with AIDS In 2003, Keith mostly withdrew from AIDS activism – until 2017, when Ventura County experienced a steep increase in new HIV infections. “We formed Quilt Project Gold Coast in response to this increase,” he explains. “The Quilts are an excellent way to educate and raise awareness so we can bring new infections down to zero.”

What advice does Keith have for younger Gays? “Be proactive and protect yourself. There are many ways to prevent HIV/AIDS – educate yourself.”

Mark Lager

Vice President

Yes, MARK LAGER is a cofounder of Quilt Project Gold Coast and Vice President on the Board. But he is so much more, and it was his visionary notion in the late 1980s that led to the creation of Quilt Project Ventura County in 1991. 

“Wanting to be of support to the AIDS community,” he says, “I took on roles at AIDS Care, Inc. to help. I was in the buddy program, took clients to doctor appointments or social activities, and wrote for the newsletter.” 

It was in the ACI newsletter that Mark first proposed the creation of a local chapter of NAMES Project, makers of the National Quilt. “I felt a compulsion to create a visible display for the entire community to see the devastation,” he explains. It was through his own grief at the loss of his sister and her family that in part brought him to make the commitment now spanning over 30 years.

Describing the standard size of the AIDS Memorial Quilts, Mark says, “Hearing the phrase ‘3×6 feet, about the size of a common grave plot,’ had an impact on me.” 

Mark’s commitment and vision have brought scores of volunteers over the decades to the cause of AIDS, but this substantial legacy has had rewards for him as well. “It was a privilege to help those who could not help themselves. I felt a lot of compassion. I took off work many times to help my buddies. For today, I am even more aware of how important kindness and compassion are in life.” 

It was this empathy that led the Kansas-born activist to service. “Prior to coming to Ventura, I (was) reading…where the CDC was tracking a new virus that was devastating the Gay community. I was becoming more aware of my sexuality, and felt a compassion and affiliation for those suffering. When my partner and I moved here, I excitedly looked for organizations to join. I met some members of the local community who were interested in creating a center to help those who had AIDS.” 

Mark was aware of the activist group ACT-UP, which was highly visible in LA County and soon to form chapters in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. “(But I) knew I was not an in-your-face activist,” he says, and wanted to support the cause in other ways – hence AIDS Care, Inc., which led to the formation of Quilt Project Ventura County and then NAMES Project Ventura County. 

Now, after decades of service to both HIV/AIDS and the LGBTI community, Mark, who is retiring next year from his IT management job at the Ventura County Library, helps to lead QPGC.  

Mark’s main focus in Quilt Project is remembering those who have died. “I believe their spirits are around us when we remember them. It is a powerful way to heal the devastation we have seen in the community, and to make the larger community aware that the disease is still with us. 

“I was overwhelmed when I was told I had HIV, but it is no longer a death sentence. Get tested routinely; be responsible for your sexual health.”

Cindy Copeland Burrell

Secretary

Although we in Quilt Project Gold Coast often say we are very unskilled at the sewing crafts, in the case of co-founder and Board Secretary CINDY COPELAND BURRELL, that is not quite the case. 

“I won a blue ribbon at the Fair for the totebag I sewed in 4th grade,” Cindy reveals. “But,” she adds, “my skills got rusty over the years, and it’s been fun to be back doing handwork again. 

“That’s one of the great things about the bees – anyone who wishes to participate can contribute, no matter if they’ve never sewn or quilted before.” 

Cindy finds a spiritual element in quilting. “Especially in these hate- and virus-ravaged days,” she says, “it’s healing to spend time with likeminded people working to improve our little corner of the world.”

For three decades Cindy has been part of sewing Quilts to remember those lost to AIDS. She sometimes ponders a world where CHRISTOPHER DYE and others weren’t gone. “As with all the brilliant, compassionate people whose lives are cut short, you wonder how much better the world would be if they had been able to continue working to change it.” 

Cindy moved to Ventura in the late 80s.  “AIDS wasn’t very well understood by many at that time,” she says, and she got involved in AIDS Care, Inc. to help out. From hotline volunteer to volunteer coordinator and Boardmember, she befriended both Mark Lager and Neil Demers-Grey, who were forming a local chapter of the NAMES Project, remaining involved with NPVC until the turn of the millennium. 

With the rise in new infections in 2017, the activists reformed as Quilt Project Gold Coast to raise awareness and help bring infections down. “So here we are nearly 30 years later – Neil, Keith, Mark and I reunited against this pervasive disease, joined by other wonderful activists and volunteers.” Among her other accomplishments, Cindy has co-hosted three successful harbor cruise fundraisers. 

After so many years of experience, what would the Cindy of today advise the young activist just getting involved? “Don’t get distracted by infighting and petty politics or ego trips. Keep focused on the reason for the Quilt: to raise awareness and to remember.”

Andy Edgar-Beltran

Boardmember

Volunteer extraordinaire ANDY EDGAR-BELTRAN wears many hats in Quilt Project Gold Coast. He hosts our quarterly meetings at his house. He organizes our Quilting bees, is (with Mark Lager) our tech guy, and so much more. 

Andy learned about QPGC in 2018 through his husband Manny’s involvement with the HIV/AIDS advisory committee of Diversity Collective Ventura County, which Board Members Keith & Neil Coffman-Grey were also part of. 

He first saw the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1993. “I remember seeing coverage…it was laid out on the Mall in DC,” Andy says. “Though I wasn’t yet out at the time, the image and message of the Quilt was powerful and has stayed with me.”

Within the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura (UUCV) – a non-denominational, LGBT-welcoming church that fosters community, social justice and individual spiritual journeys – Andy learned that a number of people there wanted to help with QPGC’s cause. “At the time, the only Quilting (bees) were in Santa Barbara. As a member of UUCV, I suggested using the church’s community hall,” he reports. “And the rest is history…I am so excited to be a part of this important work!” 

In addition to UUCV, Andy also integrates the Quilt into his professional life, including harbor cruise-sponsoring Amgen PRIDE, where he joined the leadership team two years ago. 

What would he say to younger Gays about the disease? “Get yourself educated about HIV and other STIs, and get tested. Just because HIV is treatable doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Be safe out there!

Neil Coffman-Grey

Treasurer

Board treasurer NEIL COFFMAN-GREY has been with the Quilt from the beginning, when as a volunteer for AIDS Care, Inc. (ACI), he read a column of Mark Lager’s about starting a local chapter of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. “Mark and I were already very good friends,” he says, “and I really wanted to kickstart his dream to do this creative, commemorative project.” 
 
And so with Cindy Copeland Burrell, Quilt Project Ventura County was born, with Quilt panels going to the National AIDS Quilt for the rest of the decade. In a few years, QPVC became NAMES Project Ventura County after an investiture ceremony at AIDS Care’s offices. Neil, Mark and Cindy were on the Board, surrounded by likeminded volunteers such as Lyn Gesch, Lois and Jean Story, Coral Norton and, after 1995, Keith Coffman-Grey.
 
Neil was on the Board of ACI for several years, helping to put on the yard sales, the haircut-a-thons – and finally the harbor cruises, which continue to this day with last year’s “Monster Mash” cruise. “It’s so much more than a fundraiser,” he says of the cruises. “They are a tradition, as well as a community space, particularly last year when so many events were cancelled and people just wanted to have a great time.” After many years with Islands Packers and other companies in Ventura, the 2021 cruise sailed out of Channel Islands Harbor, and is expected to do so again on The Scarlett Belle.
 
Neil was involved with several other AIDS-related organizations in the 1990’s, including the LIFE AIDS Lobby, which worked on bills affecting the HIV and LGBT communities of California, and currently is policy chair with the HIV/AIDS Coalition of Ventura County, as well as a member of the HIV Prevention & Care Consortium of Santa Barbara County.
 
As a person living with the virus, “it’s important for me to have a say over policies affecting my health and livelihood, as well as my friends and community,” Neil says. “I think it’s important in your life to do good things and leave the world a better place, if you can.” 
 
To that end, Neil was with Keith and Cindy and Mark when Quilt Project Gold Coast was formed in spring 2018, and in addition to its treasurer, he handles the bylaws, newsletter editing and several other hats. “I was a bit rusty at activism after 15 years,” he says of the intervening years after receiving his AIDS diagnosis in 2003, “but once I dived in, it’s wonderful. Keith and I had ‘retired’ after I got the disease, thinking things were going to be all right, but our movement is generational, and the same fights need to be fought over time.
 
“It was an easy decision,” he admits, “once I realized and told Keith, ‘Activism was what brought us together – and it always represented the best of us.'”
 
As older generations affected by AIDS pass on, Neil thinks it’s even more important to “remember the names” of those lost to the disease. “It’s still with us, and if you get infected, the past is very present in your life and world. I think younger activists realize this and speak out, tell their stories and help us – one day – to get to zero new infections.” 
 
Neil still holds hope that a cure will one day be found. “I’m never giving up on hope.”

Please contact us at (805) 569-0561 or quiltprojectgoldcoast@gmail.com
today to get involved!