We had a very eventful year in 2012. It is gratifying to see HIV Arkansas continue to grow as a positive force in the HIV Community. Below are a few highlights:
1. Donated $1600 to the Northwest Arkansas Regional HIV Clinic.
2. Held 20 Positive Living Support Group Meetings.
3. Educational meetings:
- HIV 101 education with AR Hope in Ft. Smith.
- Viewing of Frontline’s “The Age of AIDS” with discussion.
- Ryan White program overview by Danny Harris of ARCare
- Derrick Newby program administrator for the Arkansas Aids Education and Training Center gave presentation on his organization.
- HIV Arkansas gives presentation to classes at Arkansas Tech University.
- NWA HIV Public Forum conducted by the Arkansas Minority Health Commission and the Arkansas Minority AIDS Taskforce.
4. Hosted 2nd Annual Positive Living Retreat in Eureka Springs, Ar.
5. Hosted 2nd Annual HIV Awareness Walk in Northwest Arkansas.
6. Three Food Give-a-ways for people living with HIV..
7. Arkansas Tech University students donate 700 cans of food.
The 2012 Christmas party was, as always, a big hit among members of HIV Arkansas and invited guests. The essence of the Christmas Spirit filled the air from the moment your feet hit the decking on the front entrance of Michael and Heath’s home in Springdale. Lights in every window greeted each guest with a array of dazzling colors followed by the traditional red and gold wreath adorning the front door. Just inside, the first tree, decked in it’s whimsical ornaments made the first statement of “Merry Christmas” to all who entered.
Each guest was received by Michael or Heath who offered a glass of Michael’s Signature Holiday Punch, coffee or soda to start the evening off. In the main living room the tree was decorated in the traditional colors of Red and Green and was lit with over 2,000 lights in a spectacular display of elegance. Guest’s attending voiced their compliments of the décor and many said it helped put them in the “Christmas” spirit.
The soothing sounds of soft Christmas music was playing in the background as everyone enjoyed the splendid array of heavy hors d’oeuvres and homemade desserts. This year’s party was extra special as Willie Ming, a great friend of Michael’s and a fantastic pianist tickled the ivories while Michael serenaded the crowd and led them in Silent Night and Away In A Manger. This live entertainment set the stage for an evening not soon forgotten.
Following the food the Dirty Santa game became the focal point of all the fun as guests exchanged., or, rather, “stole” each others gifts. It was a riot at times as recipients were in the battle for the best gifts and working diligently for what they wanted to take home at the end of the night. Everyone attending the party had a great time and said they are looking forward to the next one. Our thanks to Michael and Heath for hosting the party.
What started out as a simple food drive has evolved into one of the biggest give-a-ways ever undertaken by HIV Arkansas. Dr. Jason Ulpsberger (pictured left) and his students from Arkansas Tech University started the ball rolling for the 2012 food drive when they delivered over 700 cans of food for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Give-a-ways. In addition the congregation of Spirit of Peace Church jumped on board to bring more than $1,000 worth of food items to add to the baskets. As a result of all the generous donations we gave away a total of 50 baskets of food that contained approximately $75.00 worth of food in every box., well over $3,000 worth of food to individuals living with HIV and AIDS!
Our sincere thanks for the many people that have worked diligently to make sure this event is successful. Kristy Bengs, board member is the director of the food give-a-way and always does such a great job in gathering and organizing donations from various stores across Northwest Arkansas as well as Mark Pitts, Board member, Rev. Roy Lennington, Rev. Mark Williams and Rev. Silvia Nobles for their help in assembling the boxes. Our thanks to Cargil, Inc. for their generosity and support.
We were blessed to have so many people helping with these food drive and the 2013 Food Drive is already in the planning stage.
HIV Arkansas is pleased to announce the success of our 2nd Annual HIV Awareness Walk that took place Saturday, September 8th at the Jones Center for families in Springdale. The event was well attended with more than 45 people walking. Individuals were in competition with each other to win prizes for the most money raised and the winners were given gift certificates to local restaurants for a job well done. Our grand total for the day was $3,105.
Proceeds were split 50/50 between HIV Arkansas and the NWA Regional HIV Clinic.
Pictured below are members of the HIV Arkansas board presenting the $1600 check to Dr. Linds McGhee
(From Left to right)
Heath Lance, Secretary, Michael Burks, President, Dr. Lind McGhee, Dietrich Bengs, Treasurer and Kyle Johnson, Vice President
Oh my…where to begin? Today has been an emotional day as HIV Arkansas completed our 2nd Annual HIV Awareness Walk. Hooray! What a successful day it was. Many friends and our closet family (well, we are all family) gathered today in the Jones Center to raise awareness of HIV. We are blessed to have been able to raise $3,105! Our congratulations to Karen Kensil from Eureka Springs for raising $645 on her own to gain her the title of 1st place winner, Chris Christophel of PFLAG for raising $350 for the second place and Mark Pitts, HIV board member for raising $280 for third place. Our gratitude is expressed for Spirit of Peace Community Church and the members of this welcoming congregation for their support, ARCare, NWA hope, The Arkansas Minority Heath Commission, The Arkansas HIV/AIDS Minority Task Force, Community Clinic, The Jones Center, Zulu Sneakers Graphic Design, T-Shirt Explosion, Clear Channel Outdoors Advertising, Wallen Mountain Pet Lodge and The Fayetteville Free Weekly for their support. Our thanks for everyone who stayed for the NWA HIV Public Forum following the walk. About 40 people stayed and the forum was a huge success! Thank you to all our friends and community partners for your support in this year's walk. HIV Arkansas could not have done this without your help! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Michael Burks, Kari Coffman, and Kyle Johnson made a trip to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas to do a 2 1/2 hour presentation on HIV basics to during Dr. Jason Ulsperger’s Sociology class of about 40 students. This was an great experience and the class was very receptive to our message of protecting yourself, knowing your status and getting tested. We even received a call from a couple of students wanting more information. We gave them detailed statistics for their region and county and for their particular age group.
Following our presentation Dr. Ulsperger, knowing the outreach that we do each year with a huge food drive made a proposition to his class. He offered them extra points if they brought 4 cans of food for our food drive. He not only proposed this to the class that we spoke to but offered this to all classes he teaches. Well, as a result HIV Arkansas was given 700 cans of food that was delivered to us on Thursday, June 14th by Dr. Ulsperger and his lovely wife and child..
This collection of food is tremendous and our hearts are very grateful to the students of Arkansas Tech and Dr. Ulsperger for their generosity and support.
Members and attendees of our HIV Arkansas POZ Only Meetings have expressed concern of using the name HIV Arkansas on marquees or door entrances for meetings. Many feel the name is too strong and compromises one’s confidentiality. The board of directors has taken this under advisement and have determined the best solution to address the concern was to develop a new name for our POZ Only Support meetings.
For years now we have focused our efforts on encouraging people to make positive choices for their lives and this is where the idea for the new name actually came from. That being said, we have renamed the POZ Only meetings to Positive Living Support Group Meetings. We have even adopted an additional slogan for these groups, “Real People…Living on the Positive Side”! So far the response has been great. People really like the new name, it’s vague enough that no one will ever know it is related to HIV and yet encourages folks to live positively.
The new logo (shown right) for the Positive Living Meetings was designed by Dana Luker and has captured the art of living on the positive side. Simple, yet expressive and exciting. We are very proud to have Dana, a wonderful supporter and asset. Her talent is unparalleled.
Positive Living meetings are held each month at the Rogers Public Library in the Gloztbecker Conference Room.
f you would like more information on these meetings please call 1-888-802-3332.
The idea of developing a food drive for the holidays came to me during the fall of 2010 and when I shared the idea of hosting a food drive the board of directors agreed that we could pull it off! Needless to say we have just completed our 2nd year of this outreach and it’s just amazing what we have been able to accomplish.
In my own personal life I never cease to offer thanks for the many blessings I have known. I truly know how fortunate my family and I are. We always have enough food, and most of the time too much, our waist lines are proof of this fact. Others on the other hand are not as fortunate and often find it difficult to make ends meet. Many people living with HIV have basic nutritional needs throughout the year and find it even more difficult to manage good nutrition much less a holiday meal during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. This time of year can become a depressing time for many and the lack of good food combined with decreased sunlight can create an unpleasant experience. Our goal in creating the outreach of the food drive was to eliminate this unnecessary burden. In 2010 we began what is now known as a signature event for HIV Arkansas, the Annual Food Basket Give-a-way. I must say though, this dream wouldn’t and couldn’t be a reality without the dedication and perseverance of Dietrich and Kristy Bengs who came on board with this organization in the fall of 2010. They have been instrumental in gathering food items, making contacts with sponsors, and have spent countless hours sending emails and making phone calls to secure donations. Most all collections have been made in person by the Bengs and delivered to a central location for where they are assembled, packaged, boxed, and labeled for distribution.
In 2010 we were able to give away 20 food baskets containing approximately $30 worth of food which was enough food to make a nice Holiday Feast with all the trimmings. This give-a-way was conducted for Thanksgiving and Christmas making the basket give-a-way grand total of 40! Recipients of the Thanksgiving baskets received a nice turkey breast inside and those receiving the Christmas baskets received a nice ham. Several people sent thank you notes and voice mails to HIV Arkansas for the food baskets. The baskets were delivered to the Northwest Arkansas Regional HIV Clinic for distribution.
In 2011 the challenge of supplying food baskets to the Ft. Smith area was added to our current basket need. Again our board of directors were supportive and we decided we would provide food baskets for the Ft. Smith area as well. I am pleased to report in 2011 HIV Arkansas provided a total of 50 food baskets, 40 went to the Fayetteville area and 10 went to the Ft. Smith area, all containing approximately $50 worth of food which was enough to make a nice Holiday Feast with all the trimmings, plus have several meals during the week. This give-a-way was again conducted for Thanksgiving and Christmas and recipients of the Thanksgiving baskets received a nice Turkey Breast and those who received the Christmas baskets a ham.
Our sincere thanks to the Dietrich and Kristy Bengs, Michael Burks, Heath Lance, Brian Crane, Gail Crane, Tommy Crane, Jerry Cook, Mark Pitts, Ross Pitts, and Kari Coffman for their help in assembling/delivering the baskets of food. Without your help this dream could not have become a reality. Also we want to thank the staff of the NWA Regional HIV Clinic and Dr. Linda McGhee for once again partnering with us to provide this service to needy clients again this year.
Thursday, December 1st, following the World AIDS Day Ceremony, Alaya Bell with Community Clinic of Springdale presented a Certificate of Appreciation to HIV Arkansas. The award was in recognition of all the work HIV Arkansas does in HIV Education and outreach.
HIV Arkansas and its board of directors are very grateful to Alaya Bell and the staff of the Community Clinic and for the relationship we have developed with them over the past few years. Their encouragements and support have been wonderful.
Thanks for the award, we will display it proudly on our office.