The Red Ribbon Circle came from 2 challenge grants


THANKS FOR GIVING | AHF Regional Director Bret Camp, right, presents a check representing AHF’s donations to AOC this year to AOC Executive Director Shannon Hilgart. (James Russell/Dallas Voice)


James Russell  |  Staff Writer

AIDS Healthcare Foundation presented a check to the AIDS Outreach Center on Monday, Sept. 22, fulfilling its promise to match all donations of more than $1,000 during the center’s successful Red Ribbon campaign.

When The Meadows Foundation of Dallas presented AOC with a $72,000 challenge grant opportunity, AOC formed the Red Ribbon Circle, which honors major donors, according to a statement. Those who gave or pledged $1,000 or more between May 1 and Aug. 15 would have their donation matched and be recognized as a Red Ribbon Circle Founder.

AHF kicked off the campaign with a $25,000 donation and matched each additional gift of $1,000 up to $25,000. They were joined by nearly 40 other individuals, corporations, and organizations. Four months later, the Tarrant County HIV/AIDS service organization’s donations totaled $182,000.

AOC Executive Director Shannon Hilgart said she was grateful for the outpouring of support from donors.

“We are so pleased that AHF and the Meadows Foundation provided this opportunity to initiate The Red Ribbon Circle,” Hilgart said. “It is a way that we can recognize those donors who are able to make larger gifts in support of our mission, and allow them to leave a legacy of caring.”

Bret Camp, AHF’s regional director, said, “The outpouring of support for the Red Ribbon Circle is a true reflection of the good work AOC is doing and the kindness of North Texans. We are honored to be partnering with AIDS Outreach Center to provide crucial services to people living with HIV and AIDS in the Tarrant County area.”

The donations came at a critical time for AOC. As what Camp described as the “only one-stop shop for HIV support services in Tarrant” and seven other surrounding counties, AOC’s client base has been steadily increasing. In the past year it has served 1,600 Texans living with HIV, distributing more than 80 tons of groceries and dental services to 1,100 clients through AOC’s specialized dental clinic. Alongside AHF, the organization has also tested thousands for HIV and STDs.

Like many other non-profits, however, AOC has struggled to keep up after the 2008 economic collapse.

Anticipating a budget shortfall, Hilgart approached Meadows about filling the gap, said Kathy Taylor, Meadows’ senior program officer.

But the foundation does not support general operating funds. Instead they distribute grants to organizations in one of five key areas: arts and culture, civic and public affairs, education and health and human services.

In AOC’s case, the foundation’s increasing interest in mental health was attractive to them. The grant’s criteria honored longtime major donors, gained new donors and received a grant to support their mental health counseling. In AOC’s case, “their work healing the whole body” was impressive, said Taylor.

The challenge grant model ultimately proved to be the right solution to make up for the gap. Linda P. Evans, president and CEO of the Meadows Foundation, could not be more pleased. “As the only [HIV/AIDS services] organization serving Tarrant and surrounding rural areas, AOC is making a huge difference in the lives of people living with this illness. [We] admire and respect their work, particularly the mental health program and the work being done to remove the stigma of HIV/AIDS.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 26, 2014.