Recession means more clients, fewer dollars for AIDS service agencies; organizers hope event can help bridge the gap
Last year when the rest of the country was sinking deeper into recession, the Texas economy seemed to be floating just a little bit higher. But this year, with a national economic recovery looming on the horizon, the tail end of recession is whipping around and slapping Texas squarely in the face.
And nobody is feeling the sting of slap quite like the state’s nonprofits, including the AIDS service organizations in North Texas.
That’s why events like this weekend’s AIDS LifeWalk are so important, said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, Inc., the agency that stages LifeWalk each year. Proceeds from the event benefit AIDS Arms and eight partner agencies: AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Legacy Counseling Center, Resource Center Dallas, Youth First Texas, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Turtle Creek Chorale and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.
“The money is critical,” Nobles said this week. “We have lost significant funding this year, as have all our partners and the whole nonprofit sector. Programs are at risk at this point.
“So LifeWalk is really critical. It is every year, but this year, we really need it to work,” Nobles continued. “We have all been scraping for a year and a half now, and we are near the bottom. There’s not much more to scrape.”
Nobles said AIDS Arms has seen a 22 percent increase this year in people trying to access the services the agency offers. The increase, she said, is being driven by the slumping economy.
“People have lost jobs. They have lost their insurance and their housing,” Nobles said. “People who had never thought they would need to access community resources don’t have a choice now. They are in a position where they have to ask for help, and we are trying our best to serve as many people as possible with far fewer funds than we had.”
Nobles said organizers hope to have at least
10,000 at the park on Sunday for LifeWalk, and the fundraising goal for the event is $400,000. She said that donations from sponsors will cover all the costs of staging the event, so all the money brought in by walkers goes directly into client services.
The money that the eight beneficiary partners raise themselves goes directly to those organizations. Money raised through LifeWalk for AIDS Arms will help pay for medical care at the agency’s Peabody Clinic, case management services, HIV testing and support groups.
Despite the ominous financial situation, Nobles said that LifeWalk on Sunday is “really a celebration.”
“Yes, this is a very serious cause, and yes, everyone really needs the community’s help right now. But what the event is really all about is celebrating those living with the disease and showing them how much we support them and how much we care about them.”
LifeWalk is once again headquartered in Lee Park, with a 5K route that winds through West Village, Uptown and Turtle Creek Park before ending up back at Lee Park. Registration starts at noon on Sunday, Oct. 11, and the walk itself steps off at 1 p.m.
There will be entertainment in the park throughout the day, including LifeBark, a recently-introduced addition to the annual event that allows dog lovers to get their pets involved in the fundraising. (See more information on LifeBark on Page 24 of this issue.)
Nobles said the entertainment will include performances by both Turtle Creek Chorale and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, along with live bands and “lots of music, drinks and food.”
The Dallas Bar Association will be collecting donations of toys during LifeWalk, which will then be distributed during the holiday season to children impacted by HIV and AIDS — whether they have HIV/AIDS themselves or live with an HIV-positive parents or guardian.
“We serve almost 800 kids at AIDS Arms, and walkers can bring in toys for all ages, through age 16, and drop them off at the Dallas Bar Association booth in the park,” Nobles said. “The bar association will help us collect the toys and get them organized and then disperse them over the holidays to our kiddos.”
Another new aspect of LifeWalk is that “We’re going green this year,” Nobles said.
“That’s the biggest new thing. We will have recycling centers there at the park, and we will be collecting all the water bottles and paper refuse in the park and along the walk route. We’ll be recycling everything,” she said. “We’ll be working with the city and with VHA, which is a nonprofit cooperative of hospital systems across the country, to put a real emphasis on recycling everything — bottles, paper plates, cups.
“We’ll even be using special water bottles, all of them are a new type specially created to leave less of a footprint on the environment. It is much easier to recycle and reuse these bottles,” Nobles said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 9, 2009.