Early last month organizations working to fight HIV across Southeast Michigan received word that the future of AIDS Walk Detroit as it currently stands is in question. For the last several years, the Walk has been held at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market, but in 2018 it was halted even after permits and a location were secured due to construction efforts in the city. With too little time to find another suitable location, organizers decided to plan for a 2019 Walk in Detroit.
However, this year’s plans were hindered due to the increased costs associated with hosting the event in the new location and decreased involvement of partner organizations. Since that announcement, two community meeting have been called to address how event organizers should proceed at Corktown Health Center, which houses the nonprofit Health Emergency Lifeline Programs or HELP.
“HELP took over AIDS Walk a few years ago and we’ve been shepherding it for the past six or seven years as a partner organization,” said Anthony O. Williams, HELP CEO.
He added that when HELP became aware of the increased costs required for this year’s event, roughly $50,000, it was determined that the original planned date in September “was too close to do all the things we would normally do to close to the walk.”
It was decided at the close of the first meeting that the originally scheduled walk would change into something different, “more of a community-focused event,” Williams said.
“And in addition. Wayne State University came forward and offered to have something reasonable [on its campus],” Williams said.
At the end of the second meeting, AIDS Walk organizers agreed to partner with other groups in the community like Connect 2 Protect — a coalition of Detroiters in various HIV-prevention groups aimed at stopping HIV in Detroit. Setting a collaborative meeting for Friday, Aug. 16, both HELP and C2P agreed to meet together to plan a September kick-off event for a newly rebranded Walk called Detroit Walks to End HIV.
This is a developing story and BTL will continue to update as details change. Visit pridesource.com to learn more.
History of the AIDS Walk
Teresa Roscoe is HELP’s chief operations officer. She said that HELP took over the Walk from an organization called Steppin’ Out in order to help provide organizations with funds that work to prevent HIV and AIDS.
“Steppin’ Out did an amazing job. … They did that for many years from 1991 up until 2011 and 2012, when they were just seeing diminished levels of capacity in terms of their board members, their volunteers,” Roscoe said. “Amazing people, but they were getting a little bit burned out in terms of their capacity to be able to put on the walk. As Anthony had mentioned, HELP had been the largest fundraising partner organization for many years going up to that time period and the board from Steppin’ Out approached help at that time to see if HELP would be willing to shepherd it.”
From that point, AIDS Walk Detroit was established as a separate 501(c)(3) from HELP so that it functions independently of its shepherd organization. Roscoe said that similarly to what Steppin’ Out experienced, community engagement has dwindled in recent years. This particularly impacts organizations that would receive unrestricted grants as a result of 95 percent of funds raised during the event.
“So, what’s historically been the case is that a partner organization team would raise funds through their own walkers that they would recruit, and then the bulk of those funds that were raised — 95 percent typically — would go directly back as an unrestricted grant to the organization,” Roscoe said.