by Jessica Carreras
Howard Tapper, co-owner of Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, prides himself on his commitment to both his business and his community. So when he and his brother Steven Tapper found out that not only were their workers heavily affected by HIV/AIDS, but also people in Michigan, they made it their mission to help the cause.
On June 26, their work culminated with a donation the likes of which Michigan has never experienced. At their West Bloomfield store, they presented two checks totaling $133,410.94 to the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project and the international charity YouthAIDS.
Over 18,000 people in Michigan are currently living with HIV. In South Africa, where almost 80 percent of the world’s platinum supplies are found, over 20 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 is HIV positive. Each year, over 10 percent of South Africa’s platinum miners die from AIDS. To the Tapper family, these numbers were astounding and disheartening. “We feel we have a responsibility to workers who provide for our company,” Howard Tapper said at a press conference.
Tapper’s was founded in 1977 and now has a location in West Bloomfield and Novi. In celebration of their 30th anniversary, the brothers began a fundraising campaign called “Precious Lives, Precious Metals” that aimed to raise funds to help HIV/AIDS education, treatment and prevention in both South Africa and in Michigan.
The campaign urged Tapper’s customers to make a $30 donation, for which they’d receive a $30 gift certificate. They also held a charity gala at their West Bloomfield store on World AIDS Day to raise funds. In addition, the Tapper family donated their time and portions from the proceeds of each sale of platinum jewelry made.
The yearlong result was more than they even hoped for.
MAPP received a check for $40,023.28, while YouthAIDS received $93,387.66.
Craig Covey, CEO of MAPP, accepted their check. Covey worked closely with Tapper’s throughout the campaign and called their generosity “amazing.” According to Covey, the amount donated by the Tapper family was the largest amount of money for the cause ever raised in Michigan since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. “I wish every business was as generous as the Tapper family,” he said at the press conference. “We’re making progress and the reason is because of people like Tapper’s.”
MAPP, who targets at-risk populations in metro Detroit, is one of the organizations in the state that helps to educate people about AIDS, prevent infection and provide assistance for those who are HIV positive. Their portion of the Tapper’s endowment will be used for youth-oriented programming.
Sally Cowal, chief liason officer and senior vice president of YouthAIDS PSI, accepted the international organization’s check and also delivered remarks at the press conference.
Cowal, who spent time in India, Colombia, Israel and other places while working for the U.S. Foreign Service, relayed more startling statistics. According to her, almost 1,000 people die each day from HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
“For every one person on treatment, six new people are infected,” she added. “Every day. All over the world.”
Cowal thanked Tappers for their donation, which will be used for their School Debates program in Johannesburg, South Africa and 60 “edutainment” events, which will expose 4,000 youth to information about HIV prevention. “It’s one of the most heartwarming and precious things I have seen in my long career,” she said of the gift.
Covey agreed, adding that donations like the one given by Tapper’s greatly help the cause. “The war against AIDS will be won or lost in places like South Africa,” he said, “and the Tapper’s family will be part of that battle.”