‘Tis the Season for Giving

The winter holidays are approaching fast, which means that the season of giving is well upon us. With an economy still struggling to restart itself, funding for Utah’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program running in the red and closed to new applicants, and increasing need for services at nearly all Utah charities, there has never been a better time for holiday giving. Here are a number of organizations and events in need of your time, donations and care this season.

Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire: Snowball 2009

Each year, the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, Utah’s oldest gay and lesbian nonprofit group, holds a number of drag shows and benefits throughout the year to raise money for scholarships, cancer research and, most notably, the fight against HIV/AIDS. Each December, the group puts on Snowball, a wild and fabulous party/drag show, to benefit its Christmas Fund for Utahns living with HIV/AIDS held by the group’s Prince and Princess Royale. The theme of this year’s ball will be Noir Black and White Ball, and co-chairs Prince Royale XXXIV Thomas Shaylee and Princess Royale XXXIV Kamylle Taylor Bradshaw (aka Robert “Bobby” Fairbanks) have said their 34th ball will be one of the most “fun and upbeat” yet, as well as one of the most visually stunning.

“With that space it’s very easy to do almost minimal decoration or set production while still having a very stark impact on the attendees,” said Fairbanks, noting the usefulness of the theatre’s all-black surfaces.

While this year’s ball will have the drag performances by local and out of town talent repeat attendees have come to know and love, Fairbanks said he and Bradshaw hope to add a new twist to this year’s event by inviting local dancers and “possibly a couple singing acts” to “break up the evening, so it’s not drag number after drag number.”

“We want to see the event be more mass appeal,” he said.

Each year, the Prince and Princess Royale of the current reign begin planning and fundraising for the ball in the first weekend of June and officially close the accounting books 48 hours after the ball’s last sequins and feathers are swept away. The money raised through the ball’s tickets and raffles, as well as several charity fundraisers held throughout the year, all go to the RCGSE’s People With AIDS Christmas Fund. When the last dollars are in, the Prince and Princess begin distributing checks for $100 to individuals living with HIV or AIDS whose names they have received from the Utah AIDS Foundation, the People with AIDS Coalition of Utah and the University of Utah’s AIDS service, Clinic 1A. The distribution, said Fairbanks, lasts from the ball’s end to Christmas Eve. And sometimes, when they have a surplus, they can go back through the list and give each person $50 or even $100 more.

“A lot of people have come to look forward to [this money] but not depend on it,” he said, noting that the recipients use their checks to purchase everything from medication to holiday gifts for loved ones. “Handing it across the threshold of each house really makes your holiday season as well as theirs. In past years we’ve had a few people that have been past recipients that have turned us down,” he continued. “They say they’re doing well now and they’ll come and be donors for the evening. The more years I’m involved the more people surprise me, which is a good thing when it comes to charity work.”

“In the state of world now people tend to focus more on things that seem to be more devastating on daily basis, but believe me, for the people still living with this [disease] and their loved ones, [HIV/AIDS] is just as devastating,” he said, noting that he thinks widespread focus on AIDS has been lost in the past decade.

Fundraising for people with AIDS, he added, continues through Memorial Day Weekend of the following year, either to be handed on to the next reign’s Prince and Princess, or to be donated to any AIDS-related charity in Utah or elsewhere.

Tickets for Snowball go on sale Nov. 14 and cost $20 each, or $200 per table of 10. They can be purchased through ArtTix at arttix.org. Purchasing soon is encouraged as the theatre can hold only 300 occupants.

Seasons Givings at the Utah AIDS Foundation

UAF’s Seasons Givings program gives Utahns a number of ways to help out people in the state who are living with HIV/AIDS. Individuals may help by donating money to the foundation, adopting an individual or family living with HIV/AIDS and shopping for items (mostly basic necessities such as clothing and bedding) on their wish lists, and assembling stockings filled with personal care items (like toothpaste, deodorant and diapers) and food baskets with supplies for holiday meals.

Stan Penfold, Executive Director of the foundation and newly elected Salt Lake City Councilman, said that UAF is particularly in need of donations because their client list has grown.

“We are up 10 percent in people accessing services from last year, and 69 of those are newly diagnosed and they are in the advanced stage of the disease. What that means is they’re really sick when they get treated and going right on meds, so they’re not able to work. We’re also getting a lot of folks reentering [our] service who did really well on the meds 10 years ago whose meds have stop working or who have lost insurance.” Since Utah’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program dropped nearly 90 people from its rolls in September and is currently closed to new applicants, the people who would have received help paying for the antiretroviral medication that keeps the virus in check are also in need of such basic things as food, clothing and toiletries.

“My concern is we’re going to have more people to serve this year, and with the recession a drop in donors,” said Penfold, noting that the Utah Food Bank, which supplies the foundation not only with regular food packages, has just cut the number of turkeys donated to UAF from 125 last year to 39.

“The need is real this winter,” he added. “[Donors] are not going to find anything on people’s wish lists or our Red Ribbon tree that’s a luxury item.”

To inquire about giving or to make a donation, contact Duane Abplanalp at 801-487-2323. Items for holiday food baskets, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, nonperishable rolls, stuffing mix, brownie mix and condiments as well as festive plates and table candles may be dropped off at UAF’s office, 1408 S. 1100 E., by Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving and Dec. 22 for Christmas and Chanukah. The foundation asks that meat items not be included in food baskets. Items for wish lists should be delivered unwrapped to the foundation by Dec. 18.

Poinsettias for PWAs

The People with AIDS Coalition of Utah is once again selling beautiful red poinsettias to raise money for its service programs. The plants are grown locally and come in attractive six inch pots and can be purchased for $10 or $75 for eight. Plants must be purchased by Nov. 20 either at pwacu.org or by calling (801) 484-2205 and can be delivered to locations in Salt Lake County and the following counties: Davis, Weber (Nov. 24 and Dec. 4), Summit (Nov. 27 and Dec. 8), Tooele and Utah (Dec. 1 and 11).

The organization will also observe World AIDS Day at the outside ampitheatre of the Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 S., on Dec. 1.

“I already have a minister to give the prayer,” said Toni Johnson, the group’s Executive Director, noting that the event will also include an open microphone, red ribbons, quilt panels made for the Project Names AIDS quilt, and tables for such groups as the Utah Health Department and the Indian Walk-in Center.

The organization’s thrift store, Our Store: Your Thrift Alternative, Is also looking for donations of coats, winter clothing and working electronics as well as Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. One hundred percent of sales at the store go to PWACU’s programs, and the store also gives gift certificates to its clients and to case managers throughout the valley so their clients can come and get needed items.  As an incentive to shop, Our Store will also offer a 50 percent off sale on all items over $2 on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving.

“So people should come and shop here for the holidays,” Johnson said.

However, Johnson stressed that PWACU’s most urgent need is convincing the state legislature to contribute money to the ADAP program in 2010.

“Because the program is closed, they cut people and now they’re denying new people based on the income levels,” she said. “So we need people to keep on this issue, be informed and when the time comes, to call their Senators and Representatives, because they’re not going to give the program money unless the community demands it.”

Fourth Street Clinic

Located at 404 S., 400 W., the Fourth Street Clinic is the pre-eminent provider of comprehensive health care — that is, primary care, behavioral health, specialty care and pharmacy services — to Salt Lake City’s homeless population, most of whom lack insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid because they are not disabled and do not have dependents.

“It costs us $150 per office visit [per person] and that’s for total coordinated care,” said Jenn Hyvonen, Development and Communications Director for the clinic. “Not only is that the 30 minute appointment, but the care coordination, transportation, translation services, specialty care, and respite care.” The total per patient per year, she noted, is $500. The clinic, she added, is staffed by 200 doctors and specialists who provide their services on a pro bono basis.

Even so, increased need for the clinic’s services means that it needs to raise more money to cover medical supplies and lab costs. In order to save money, Hyvonen said the clinic has gone to electronic health records and cut each client’s visit from 40 minutes to half an hour.

“We’ve gone from seeing 85 patients a day to about 100 with the same staff,” she said. “But now we’re seeing more patients.” In total, she estimates that Fourth Street serves 6,000 people, including 700 patients between the ages of 0 and 22.

To accommodate the surge in need, the clinic is trying to raise $50,000 by year’s end. And to meet that goal, they are reaching out to the community for help.

Even a little bit of money, said Hyvonen, goes a long way. For example, $10 will fill many prescriptions. Five thousand dollars, she added, will supply a specialty clinic — such as the on site for optometry and podiatry — for a year.

The clinic will also hold a candlelight vigil on Dec. 21 in honor of homeless Utahns.

“We get together and remember all the homeless people who lost their lives due to homelessness,” she said, noting that about 50 homeless people in Utah die each year from exposure or “from the same type of diseases that are affecting the housed population”—chronic but treatable illnesses like diabetes, cancer and respiratory ailments.

“It goes to show what access to lack of health insurance can do,” she said. “It’s amazing the amount of pain people are living with out there”

To make a donation to the clinic, visit fourthstreetclinic.org.

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