She remembered going to hospitals to visit her sick friends two, three and four times a week.
“We were losing everyone that we loved, everyone that mattered to me,” Sutton said. “We held their arms and said goodbye to the people we loved.”
As an actress and activist, Sutton has traveled the world, including to Spain, Israel, France and England. Sutton has been engaged in activism all her life, from taking care of dogs and cats as a little girl in Brussels, to supporting the Algerian independence movement while she was in France.
Sutton saw the heartache and devastation caused by the disease and wanted to help. Toward the end of the 1980s, Sutton saw her friends with AIDS/HIV lose their homes, jobs, friends and pets.
In 1989, Sutton founded PAWS/LA, an organization that takes care of pets of residents of Los Angeles County affected by AIDS/HIV. The organization, which offers services and financial support for people and their pets, makes it its mission to ensure that people suffering from AIDS/HIV do not have to worry about their animal companions, according to Sutton.
“We started PAWS/LA so that people who have lost everything can at least keep their pets,” Sutton said.
Recently, PAWS/LA has extended its services to low-income seniors and people disabled by life-threatening illnesses. It serves more than 1,700 clients and 2,000 pets or animal companions.
Since settling in West Hollywood, Sutton has consistently focused on LGBT issues. She has served on the West Hollywood Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board for 12 years. She is a founding board member of The Lavender Effect, a nonprofit that educates people on the history of the LGBT movement, especially in Southern California. Sutton also sits on the Stonewall Democratic Club.
Sutton said her lifelong activism is not a choice.
“We are not involved because we are do-gooders. We do it because it’s about caring for and fighting for people that we love, that I love. There is no way that I could not be involved in activism,” Sutton said.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.)announced late last week a list of women honorees from different parts of Los Angeles who have done inspiring and outstanding work in their respective communities.
Schiff named Sutton West Hollywood’s “2015 Woman of the Year.”
“She’s a woman of incredible energy and passion,” Schiff said.
Schiff and his staff invited different communities of Los Angeles to nominate inspiring women for the award, which he has presented for more than 18 years.
“We thought that Sutton was a great nomination for ‘Woman of the Year’,” Schiff said.
As a father, Schiff said he wants his daughter to have positive women role models, such as Sutton.
“I want her to have every possibility to reach her full potential and not be inhibited in any way because she’s a woman. I’m very grateful to these women,” he added.