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By Sharon Gittleman
ROYAL OAK – Last September, thousands marched through the streets of Royal Oak to raise money for people with HIV, at the annual Steppin’ Out AIDS Walk Detroit fundraiser. Last week their efforts brought new hope to the men, women and children living with AIDS every day.
“We have one client living here with her grandson,” said Simon House spokesperson Tia Jackson. “The 8-year-old grandson is positive. He contracted it from his mother during childbirth. Both his mother and father are deceased.”
Simon House was one of 25 agencies awarded grants from funds raised during the annual AIDS Walk. The awards were presented in a ceremony held at the Royal Oak Women’s Club Dec. 2. AIDS Walk Detroit board members personally handed the grant checks and funds for agency Walk participants to the organizations’ representatives.
Simon House, a Detroit agency that provides emergency shelter and permanent housing for women and children with HIV/AIDS, received an $8,600 grant and $995 for its walk team participants, said Jackson.
In Simon House’s 15 years of operation, clients have run the gamut from pregnant women with AIDS to seniors.
“On average, we see 176 women and children each year,” she said.
Women and children don’t just receive a place to stay at Simon House. The agency helps them obtain transportation, food, clothing, hygiene products and other desperately needed assistance.
Compassion is the group’s key decision-making factor.
“The 8-year-old grandson had never seen the other side of his family,” said Jackson. “We paid their way to go down to Florida to see his mom’s family.”
AIDS Walk Detroit awarded $230,000 in grants to agencies that provide direct care services, prevention and education programs or public awareness, through events and activities that guarantee people living with AIDS and HIV are treated with dignity and respect.
Deaf C.A.N. was another grant awardee. The community service organization received $2,900 in grant funds and earned $950 from their walk team, said Deaf C.A.N. spokesperson Carol Jensen.
“We give support to people with HIV/AIDS who are hard of hearing,” said Jensen.
Many deaf people with AIDS have an extra burden to bear.
“Your average deaf person reads at a third grade level,” Jensen said. “We help them fill out the forms and go with them to their doctor’s appointments.”
The award ceremony allowed AIDS agencies to meet informally and discuss ways they could work together to achieve their aims.
Representatives of Royal Oak’s Higher Ground, a holistic spiritually-focused HIV/AIDS group that began operations in February, offered to provide blankets to the women and children at Simon House.
“We’re trying to collect 500 blankets,” said Higher Ground Co-founder Rick Henning. “One of our core beliefs is as you help others, you help yourself.”
AIDS Walk Detroit President Kim Tabor said grants were chosen by a group of anonymous volunteers familiar with issues related to HIV/AIDS. None of the volunteers serve on the AIDS Walk Detroit Board of Directors. The volunteers make their decisions based on a number of factors, including whether the grant money will reach a large number of people.
Simon House would welcome donations of linens, furnishings, hygiene items or checks. Call them at 313-531-3400 for more information. Higher Ground maintains blanket collection drop-off sites at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, Affirmations Lesbian Gay Community Center in Ferndale, Renaissance Unity Church in Warren and at the Oakland Community Center campuses in Royal Oak and Southfield.