Walking to remember

FAMILY BUSINESS | One reason Kelly Smith works at the Tommy’s Hamburgers on Camp Bowie, owned by her parents, is that her job there gives her plenty of time to volunteer with AIDS Outreach Center. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

For Kelly Smith, volunteering at AOC and participating in the AIDS Walk is a family affair — in more ways than 1

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

When she was growing up, Kelly Smith always thought of her uncle, Brad, as more of a brother and friend than an uncle.

“He was my dad’s only brother. He was a chef, a great cook, and when my parents opened up Tommy’s Hamburgers, he helped them out a lot,” Smith said. “He was only 10 years older than me, and I grew up hanging out with him and his friends.”

But then AIDS struck, Kelly said, “and I lost Brad. I’ve lost his partner, and I’ve lost all of his friends but one. It was devastating.”

But before he died in 1994, Brad Smith introduced his niece to Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center and the agency’s annual AIDS Walk. In the years since, the bond between Kelly and that agency has grown ever stronger, giving her an opportunity, she said, to honor the memories of her uncle and friends by helping those still living with HIV.

“I did the AIDS Walk with Brad in 1992 and 1993 before he died in 1994. Then by the mid-90s, I started getting more involved. I became a team captain and started getting other people to walk with me.”

But Kelly didn’t limit her involvement to the AIDS Walk: She joined the center’s board of directors three years ago and is now vice president of the board.

Still, the AIDS Walk holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s my passion. It’s my calling. I truly love it,” she said. “This year is my fourth year to be co-chair of the walk, and it’s going to be the best one ever.

READY, SET WALK | Participants in the 2011 AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk get ready to set out from the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on the 5K course. This year, the walk moves back to its roots in Trinity Park. This is Kelly Smith’s fourth year as AIDS Walk co-chair.

“My partner, Holly Edwards, works for Luke’s Locker, and now Luke’s has come on as a walk sponsor. It’s always so much fun to be part of the walk, but it’s even better now because this is something that we do together,” Kelly said.

Supporting the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities has always been something of a family affair for the Smiths, starting with her parents, who own Tommy’s Hamburgers.

They first opened the restaurant in 1983 in an old Texaco station in Lake Worth. The second location opened 19 years ago on Green Oaks, and nine years ago the third location on Camp Bowie — where Kelly usually works — opened its doors.

Tommy’s has long been a meeting place for LGBT community groups, like Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, and a sponsor for events like AIDS Walk.

That support obviously grew out of the family’s love and support for Brad and Kelly, but it may have been kick-started by some people’s response to news of Brad’s HIV-positive status.

“We had a lot of people back then calling and saying things like, ‘Do all of you have AIDS?’ People were so confused about AIDS, about what it was and how it was spread,” Kelly recalled.

Kelly went to college first at Texas Wesleyan then graduated from Texas Christian University. She taught school for a few years, but then decided what she really wanted to do was return to the family business. And now she is in charge of marketing and buying for Tommy’s Hamburgers.

“It’s certainly never boring around here,” Kelly said. “I love working with my family and meeting the customers. But what I really love about this job is that it gives me the time to do volunteer work at AIDS Outreach Center.”

And that volunteer work is really about family, too: “There’s a great group of people at AIDS Outreach, like a family,” Kelly said. “It’s a group of people all coming together with one goal — to get services to the people who need them.”

Right now, that group is all coming together to kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year with a successful 19th annual AIDS Walk. And although the walk accounts for only a relatively small percentage of AIDS Outreach Center’s overall budget, Kelly said it is one of the agency’s most popular annual events.

“This is the one fundraiser we do that everyone can participate in. You can bring your children. You can bring your pets. It’s just a lot of fun for everyone,” she said.

Kelly is getting close to her own 20th anniversary with AIDS Outreach, and that’s a long time to work or volunteer in the world of AIDS — burnout is often an issue.

But not for Kelly Smith.

“Things have changed over the years,” she said. “People are more receptive to donating to the cause and being involved. But at the same time, some things haven’t changed. People are still getting infected.

“Just recently, I reconnected with an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile,” she continued. “He told me he is positive. On the one hand, it made me feel good that he felt comfortable enough with me, that he trusted me enough to tell me something so personal. But on the other hand, it was very hard to hear that someone else I know, a friend who is such a wonderful guy, has HIV.

“I was feeling safe again, I guess. And then my friend tells me he is infected. It just drives me more, makes me want to do more and work harder,” Kelly said. “I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Until there’s a cure, I’ll never stop.”

The 19th annual AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk will be held Sunday, April 3, beginning at the pavilion near 7th Street in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk steps off at 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is $25, available online at AOC.org. Registration the day of the walk is $30 and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, 2600 W. 7th St.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Resource Center Dallas Honors Volunteers

It was an evening of glitz and glam as hundreds from the LGBT community packed the Starlight Lounge to honor volunteers for Resource Center Dallas on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people contributed more than 47,000 hours — valued at about $985,000 — to RCD in 2010.

On Sunday night, RCD honored them — Retro Hollywood style.

The moment volunteers and guest stepped out of their vehicles, they were met by valet and shown to the red carpet. Upon entry, they were invited to the posh open bar as well as catered hors d’oeuvres and dinner.

“This event is excellent for the community,” said James Weber, a supporter of the event. “It encourages support, involvement and gives a sense of appreciation to a whole lot of people.”

With more than 100 volunteers to recognize, RCD utilized a dual host technique and a team of (what else?) volunteers to hand out awards.

The true star of the night was longtime volunteer Barbara Foster. For her significant contributions to RCD and various other community groups over the years, Foster received the 2010 Martha Dealey Volunteer of the Year award.

“Come see what a difference — it’ll change in your life — see what you’ll get out of [volunteering],” said Foster. “Because I’ll tell you, I get more out of [volunteering] than I give.”

She added that being recognized by others she works with at RCD felt wonderful.

Cece Cox, executive director of RCD, said the power of volunteers to help an agency succeed in serving the community is what it’s all about — having fun networking but contributing back to the community.

—  admin

Va. closes new enrollment for AIDS drug program

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health says that it’s been forced to close new enrollment into its AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides HIV-related medication for low-income people.

There are some exceptions, including allowing pregnant women and children 18 years old and younger to continue to enroll in the program. The department also reduced the number of drugs the program covers.

Virginia funds 14 percent of the $21.6 million program; the federal government covers the vast majority.

The Roanoke Times reports that Health Commissioner Karen Remley wrote in a December letter to health providers that ADAP won’t be able to keep pace with demand.

“ADAP is not categorized as an entitlement program, and therefore, funding is insufficient to provide medication coverage for all low-income or uninsured individuals. The current financial situation is now requiring even greater reliance upon the manufacturers’ patient assistance programs (PAPs),” she wrote.

State figures show that about 4,200 Virginians used ADAP last year.

Health officials say the number of Virginians living with HIV has increased 44 percent since 2000. About 64 percent lack health insurance, which would cover their treatments and medications.

—  John Wright

Thanks for an amazing year at RCD

LGBT, HIV communities should be prepared for new challenges in 2011

What a year! Who could have predicted all the twists and turns it has taken, or the events that galvanized our country and united our communities?

IMG_1262
HELL FREEZES OVER  | A member of the Phelps clan from Westboro Baptist Church protests outside Resource Center Dallas in July. A counterprotest fundraiser organized by RCD netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for the agency’s hot lunch program. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

So much happened in 2010 involving Resource Center Dallas, and none of it could have occurred without the strong support of the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities in North Texas.

Looking back, I am filled with gratitude and wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. Here’s what you helped us accomplish:

• Dallas Area Rapid Transit expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity, in the wake of news stories about the discrimination experienced by a transgender bus driver;

• RCD joined forces with the Kaiser Family Foundation, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and AIDS ARMS to bring the “Greater than AIDS” campaign to Dallas, highlighting services available to people living with HIV/AIDS and promoting HIV prevention;

• DFW International Airport expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, following a request from RCD and Fairness Fort Worth;

• A fundraising counterprotest against a “church” from Kansas brought out hundreds of community members in a rainstorm and netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for our HIV/AIDS clients’ hot lunch program;

• Following advocacy by RCD, Lambda Legal, LULAC and a coalition of other community groups, the Dallas Independent School District adopted a first-of-its-kind-in-Texas comprehensive, enumerative antibullying policy that covers not only LGBT students, but all students;

• We partnered with 138 community groups, including the Tarrant County Health Department and the Urban League of Greater Dallas, in the “Stomp Out Syphilis” campaign; administered over 3,100 HIV tests; and delivered HIV prevention messages to more than 8,600 people;

• We completed diversity training for all 700-plus employees of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage commission statewide — the first time a state agency conducted this training for all its employees;

• And, we served more than 21,500 weekday lunches and provided about 29,000 visits to our food pantry for our HIV/AIDS clients in 2010 — distributing more than 350 tons of groceries.

These accomplishments, funded while the economy remained sluggish and both the need and demand for our services continued to increase, show the generous nature and support of our communities and allies. Each and every one of you who got involved deserves recognition and a deep, sincere thank you — especially the more than 1,100 people who volunteered at RCD in 2010.

As we stand on the cusp of another year, we do not know what opportunities for change will be presented. Clearly, the political landscape has shifted, and the new realities in Washington and Austin will provide opportunities and challenges for the LGBT and HIV communities.

One key area — funding for ADAP (AIDS drug assistance programs), medical care and social services for people living with HIV — will be an issue for Texas lawmakers already grappling with a large budget deficit.

The movement toward marriage equality will continue in the federal courts, as well as state legislatures. Even though “don’t ask, don’t tell” is coming to an end, work needs to be done so that gay and lesbian members of the military can serve openly — and, there remains a prohibition on openly transgender members of the armed services.

Over the past year, the LGBT and HIV communities responded to issues as they developed. We made phone calls, wrote letters, spoke truth to power, and rallied. We donated our time to organizations quietly and without thought of recognition. We sent our dollars in to provide economic support to organizations that share our values, focus and interests.

What 2010 teaches us is that we must be ready to meet whatever challenges we encounter. Resource Center Dallas will be there, engaged on behalf of not only our communities but all North Texans. We’ll continue to develop partnerships across the region, because the issues of HIV, discrimination and equality don’t respect city limits or county lines. And, we’ll be turning to the communities again for your help and support.

Playwright and author Thornton Wilder reminds us, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Throughout this year, you and our work with and for you kept us fully alive and conscious of our shared treasure. For that, and the opportunity you offer us to serve you and our communities, Resource Center and I say thank you. And Happy New Year!

Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Holiday giving down to HIV/AIDS food pantry, and $1 million from Wal-Mart probably wouldn’t hurt


Holiday donations have decreased this year to Resource Center Dallas’ HIV/AIDS food pantry, according to RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell.

McDonnell told us this morning that the food pantry’s annual holiday donation drive, which began at Thanksgiving, is critical to providing clients with nutrition into the new year and through the winter.

“There will be less money to buy the groceries we need, which will mean potentially less selection and that kind of stuff,” McDonnell said. “I don’t know how much we’re off by. Obviously every bit that people contribute helps. The perception is the economy hasn’t gotten any better. The need is still there. The need doesn’t change.”

According to RCD’s annual holiday giving letter, here’s what even a small contribution to the food pantry can do:

• $30 provides vital, fresh food for a person living with HIV for an entire month. For $1.00 a day, your gift will provide groceries for a client from our food pantry – a mini grocery store in which clients fill their own baskets with a selection of dietician-monitored foods, empowering clients to make choices based on their own needs, likes and dietary requirements.

• $50 provides a daily hot meal for a person living with HIV for one month. For less than $1.70 a day, your gift will feed a client a nutritious meal – a salad bar filled with fresh produce, main course, two vegetables and a dessert – all prepared by the loving hands of Miss Doris and her loyal volunteers.

• $120 can feed a person living with HIV through the winter. For less than $1.00 a day, your gift will ensure that a member of our community has hot meals to keep them warm and sustain them through the coldest months of the year.

To donate to the food pantry, go here.

Also today, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s chief of staff Chris Heinbaugh sends along word that Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is vying to win $1 million from Wal-Mart’s “fight hunger together” Facebook challenge. But Leppert, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck need your help. The metropolitan area with the most Facebook “likes” by the end of the year wins the $1 million, with the next five each receiving $100,000. Right now, however, D-FW-Arl. is in 10th place.

While we’re not particularly big fans of Wal-Mart, Heinbaugh points out that if D-FW-Arl. wins, the beneficiary will be the North Texas Food Bank, which of course serves RCD’s food pantry. So you might as well go here and click “like,” then pass it along to all your friends.

—  John Wright

Get your Big Mouth Burger at Knox Chili’s and help the Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation

Earlier this year, we featured local designer Anthony Chisom in our Great Spaces supplement where he talked about how merely restaging items in the house can make dramatic effects. As it turns out, he’s making other dramatic effects on a more activist level. He’s the founder of the Anthony Chisom AIDS F0undation, which works to support those living with HIV/AIDS around the world by assisting those living on COBRA insurance policies. The foundation also keeps its eye on the local community as well, and one of its initiatives is the South Dallas AIDS Walk scheduled for March 19.

Today only, the Knox Chili’s is offering 10 percent of dining proceeds to the foundation with each flier presented. Just print the sheet that we’ve posted after the jump and hand it to your server. Or check here for a slightly bigger version. As the flier says, the benefit runs through 11 p.m. Heck, you could even do lunch and dinner.

—  Rich Lopez

Lambda Legal releases study on HIV-related stigma, discrimination

In advance of World AIDS Day next Wednesday, Dec. 1, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has released “HIV Stigma and Discrimination in the U.S.: An Evidence-Based Report,” which focuses on the continuing stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV to policy makers and advocates.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said over the next year, Lambda Legal continue to press the legislators and policymakers at all levels to address these issues as they imoplement the strategy.

Findings in the report include:

• Nearly 63 percent of the respondents who had HIV reported experiencing discrimination in healthcare.

• A Kaiser Family Foundation report shows that the percentage of people who incorrectly believe that HIV can be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass is actually higher now than in 1987, and the percentage of people who incorrectly believe that transmission can occur by touching a toilet seat actually rose between 2006 and 2009.

• People with HIV are subject to prosecution and/or harsher sentencing for conduct that is not criminal. For example, in 2009, Daniel Allen was charged with violating a Michigan bioterrorism statute outlawing the use of harmful biological substances, based on allegations Allen has HIV and bit his neighbor during a fight. That charge was dismissed.

• Discrimination against people living with HIV as they seek to access elder care occurs throughout the country. Robert Franke, a 75-year-old retired university provost and former minister, was abruptly ejected from an assisted living facility in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009 because he has HIV. Representing Franke and his daughter, Lambda Legal sued the company operating the facility, alleging violations of the ADA and the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as similar state antidiscrimination laws.

This case recently settled.

To see the complete report, go online to LambdaLegal.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

F.A.C.E. offers HIV-positive a shoulder to lean on

HIV/AIDS support group at Cathedral of Hope celebrates its 1st anniversary with a World AIDS Day event that includes Quilt panels

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Todd Faulk

A year ago, Todd Faulk created an HIV/AIDS support group as part of the Cathedral of Hope outreach ministries. But it’s not a Bible study, and it’s not a religious group.

Faulk notes that he’s not a licensed counselor, and he’s not a pastor. The group is there to help people living with HIV feel better about themselves.

Still, Faulk said, he felt — and he had heard others say — that as the largest LGBT church in the area, Cathedral of Hope should offer an HIV support group.

Such groups were more common in the early 1990s, before drugs that helped control the virus became available. But Faulk saw a need. He said people had questions, especially young people.

When Faulk volunteered to become the face of the group, he turned that word into an acronym for Faith, Acceptance, Caring, Educate.

He said that the goal was support and information, not fellowship, so before calling the first meeting, he looked for some curriculum. He couldn’t find any, so he turned to area professionals.

Faulk knew Legacy Counseling Center Executive Director Melissa Grove because he turned to Legacy when he was first diagnosed a dozen years ago. So he approached her, and Grove provided him with a number of topics for meetings and referred a number of people to the group.

“They’ve done a fantastic job,” said Grove said of F.A.C.E. “Any person going to the group would be welcomed with open arms.”

She said that while Legacy provides individual counseling and therapeutic groups, and other AIDS service organizations offer other services, F.A.C.E.  fills a void.

“A support group doesn’t need to be led by a licensed professional,” she said.

Grove raved about the job Faulk has done. Before the group began, she worked with him on facilitating skills and how to create a safe environment.

“If a leader can’t do that, people won’t talk,” she said.

She said it was important for Faulk to recognize when someone might need something more than a support group, and over the past year they have referred people back and forth from her therapy to his support.

Dr. Nick Bellos and his nurse practitioner, Stephanie Shoemaker, usually attend two sessions a month to answer medical questions.

“We’re there in case people have questions about their drugs,” said Bellos.

He said they especially discuss side effects.

“We tell folks what’s out there and available,” he said.

Bellos also provides information about clinical trials in the area. Recently he gave the group information on life expectancies and co-morbidities, discussing HIV-related diabetes and hypertension.

His job isn’t diagnosing at the group, but if Bellos hears something that sounds like it needs to be examined, he sends the group member to his doctor.

Bellos complimented Faulk on the way he runs the group.

“He does a great job keeping the group on track,” Bellos said. “He makes sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.”

Faulk said some people attend a few meetings, get what they need from the group and move on. Others have become regulars. And while the goal is to help people with HIV live better lives, the death of one member soon after F.A.C.E.  formed reminded everyone of how serious HIV can be.

“He developed spinal meningitis and died in less than a week,” Faulk said. “His family didn’t even know he was positive.”

That left the man’s partner with the job of explaining the illness to the family.

Since then, that member’s mother has attended, first for support after her son’s death and then to help others come out to their families as HIV-positive and, when necessary, as gay.

Other parents have participated to get information and to support their HIV-positive sons. Parents from out of town have attended and left with confidence that their child was getting the support needed, Faulk said.

In addition to coming out and medical issues, Faulk said group members have dealt with a variety of other related topics, like “eating habits, how the food you’re eating affects your medication.”

Faulk said someone might mention that he has a reaction when he eats a particular food. And another group member will say he has noticed a similar reaction.

“I call that the ‘me, too’ factor,” said Grove. “It’s very important in decreasing isolation.”

Faulk said those sort of things are important because living with HIV requires a lifestyle change. He said he learned in the group that regular antacids block the body from properly absorbing HIV medications. He said his doctor gave him something to use instead.

“We talked about a recent study that showed that cocaine actually increases the amount of HIV in the body by lowering the immune system,” Faulk said.

Other topics have included acceptance, setting goals, the importance of physical activity, positive thinking and getting away from a “woe is me” feeling.

World AIDS Day marks the one-year anniversary of F.A.C.E., as well as the 10th anniversary of the John Thomas Bell Tower. F.A.C.E. helped coordinate the World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral.

The Rev. Paul Tucker, who was the Cathedral’s first AIDS chaplain, will lead the service. He is now a pastor at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis.

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform.

Panels from the quilt will be on display in the International Peace Chapel and HIV testing coordinated with Resource Center Dallas will be available throughout the day.

Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Dec. 1 at 7:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIN hits $10,000 fundraising goal, gets matching grant from Moody Foundation

Steven Pace

Back on Monday, Nov. 9, I posted this item here on Instant Tea pointing out that AIDS Interfaith Network had one week left to raise a total of $10,000 in order to get a grant from The Moody Foundation that would match the donations, dollar for dollar.

Well, you guys came through. AIN hit its goal and earned the matching grant!

This comes from Steve Pace, AIN’s executive director:

“To give you an idea of what that means to the clients we serve, $10,000 can provide: 400 DART bus passes so clients with HIV/AIDS can access medical services necessary to maintaining their health; or more than 1,650 nutritious, sustaining meals for our most vulnerable clients.”

Let me tell you, AIN — and all our AIDS service organizations — really know how to make every penny count. And thank goodness, otherwise there would be a lot of people going without food, without housing, without clothing, without their medications and without proper medical care.

But even though AIN hit its $10,000 goal, Pace points out, “We’re not claiming victory yet. Did you know there are still people right here in Dallas who are homeless, starving and living with HIV/AIDS? We typically see more people in need of food and assistance during the winter, so your continued support is crucial.”

So as we head into the holiday season, take a minute to stop and count your blessings. I bet you will find out you are more blessed than you realize. And then, share those blessings with people in need. Donate to AIDS Interfaith or one of our other outstanding AIDS service agencies, or to some other charitable cause. It will add more to your life than you can imagine. Just like Jesus said, “As you give, so shall you receive.”

—  admin

AIDS Interfaith facing fundraising shortfall

Steven Pace

In October, members of the staff here at Dallas Voice spent one Saturday night participating in AIDS Interfaith Network’s Saturday Night Live program, providing an evening meal to some of the agency’s clients who might have otherwise not had a hot meal over the weekend. It was an excellent opportunity for us to see firsthand some of AIN’s outstanding programs, not to mention, to personally meet some of the wonderful people AIN serves.

So today when I opened an e-mail from Steven Pace, AIN’s executive director, and saw that the agency is in need of funds — quick — I knew I wanted to pass the information along here on Instant Tea in hopes of helping the agency meet their goal.

AIN has less than a week — until Monday, Nov. 15 — to hit the $10,000 goal, and when Pace sent the e-mail yesterday, the agency was still $3,000 short.

You might be able to donate only a small amount, and you think that your little gift wouldn’t really matter. But Pace points out, “Thanks to a generous grant from The Moody Foundation, your gift of $50, $100, or even $250 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.”

So every little bit counts, and it can count double.

Pace adds: “Everyday at AIN we see the impact that generous donors like yourself make in the lives of those we serve. From a hot meal or a ride to a doctor’s appointment for a client living with HIV/AIDS, to valuable prevention education for those at risk, your support matters.”

Go here to contribute.

—  admin