ROBERT MOORE Team Dallas Voice
I left the office and went out for lunch today. Not an uncommon occurrence. I go out almost every day. The biggest challenge I have before I leave the building is deciding where to eat. Dallas is a restaurant town, you know.
Where to eat? How much to spend? How far to travel? How much time do I have in my schedule today? So many decisions to be made just for a simple lunch.
Today I had lunch with Jennifer Hurn, the client services manager for Resource Center Dallas, one of the beneficiaries of Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, along with AIDS Services of Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County.
I had called Jennifer and told her I was riding Lone Star Ride this weekend and I wanted to meet some of the clients at the Hot Meals Program, which she oversees. Ultimately, when you are holding out your hand and asking people for money to support a cause, your cause, you want to know and see that the money they hand over to you is doing some good.
The RCD’s Hot Meals Program serves between 100 to 150 clients every weekday. Today’s menu was barbeque chicken, green beans with potatoes, garlic toast, a salad, plus cake for those, like me, that have a sweet tooth.
To be eligible for the meal, a client must be HIV-positive, have an income at or below 300 percent of the poverty level and fall under Ryan White funding.
“We see some people once a week and some every day,” Hurn explains. “The numbers always go up at the end of the month when the social security money starts to run out. Always. We have a total of over 900 clients who are eligible for the meal.
If they all showed up on a single day, I don’t know what we would do.”
Jennifer doesn’t want to face that prospect and I understand her fears. Most of the chairs are taken.
After going down the serving line, we sit down with Edward, a longtime client. Edward lives in Oak Cliff and takes the bus on his daily trip to RCD. The journey takes him an hour-and-a-half to two hours each way.
“I have been coming here for years. I’m an old-timer at this place. Plus I’m 60 years old,” he says, shaking his head with a grin, something of an acknowledgment he didn’t expect to be around this long. He notes that while the trip is onerous because he walks with a back brace and the help of a cane, he looks forward to it.
“If I don’t come here I may not see many people. I try to get to know people, especially the new folks who may not be comfortable at first.” Edward is the welcoming voice closest to the serving line.
While Edward holds court, Jennifer and I change tables to meet some of the other diners. Rick and Mike are longterm AIDS survivors. Rick became positive in 1997, Mike in 1987.
They both were successful businessmen who held professional jobs and never expected to be clients of a non-profit like Resource Center, but HIV has taken its toll and neither are able to work. Now, they live together to look after each other, have some company and help with living expenses.
“This place is important to me,” Rick states firmly. “I take a lot of medication and, well, it can make me confused,” he confides. “I really like to cook. I used to cook all the time, but now, well, many times I start cooking but I can’t finish what
I’m cooking. I don’t remember what to do next so I just give up. But then the medicine makes you sick if you are not eating.
This lunch solves a lot of problems for me.”
Rick looks straight at me, and I realize that he is about to say something he hates to admit: “Plus this place gives me a reason to get up and get dressed and gets me out. If I didn’t come here I might never go outside.”
Mike nods his head in agreement. “The interaction at the table is very important. There are people going through what you are going through, or maybe you can help somebody with a problem that you had once. Maybe you can teach them about Social Security or how to make it through a day at Parkland. Living on charity is not an easy way to live.
“There are homeless people here. They can get groceries from the Food Pantry but if you have no place to cook, how are you going to eat a hot meal? At least the kids on the street can get one hot meal a day.”
Mike knows a few of the homeless kids who got sick and went back home to stay. Their parents thought they just had a sick kid, then they found out they had a gay kid too, so they just turned them out on the street. “Isn’t that wrong?” he asks in disgust. “Is to me.”
Edward and Mike and Rick turn a few questions to me. Why are you here? Why are you taking notes? I explain that I am doing Lone Star Ride, writing this installment of LSR Journal and, most importantly, asking people for money to keep programs like Hot Meals going.
“The great thing about the ride is that it a very public statement,” Mike says. “You let people know that AIDS is still here. It’s still with me, that’s for sure.”
Jennifer asks how Lone Star Ride fundraising is going. She knows it is tough out there raising money. “Whatever you raise, we will make it go as far as possible,” she promises.
Indeed she does. For that thirty bucks I spend on a typical business lunch, Jennifer can feed an RCD client a hot lunch every weekday for a month. On thirty bucks. Amazing.
The crew and the riders who come together to make events like Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS work ultimately are there because they want to help people like Edward and Mike and Rick, and all the clients and the programs of the three beneficiaries.
We ride for those who cannot. I am determined to ride every mile.
As I get up to leave, Rick stands up and shakes my hand, and invites me back. I accept. I tell him we’ll share a table again. Because like Rick says, “I like going out for lunch.”
Robert Moore is captain of Team Dallas Voice. Donate to him online at LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.