Local and Community News
Boston: Banquet for HIV Population to Go On -- Aid by Red Sox Saves Tradition
November 27, 2002
Two thousand people were expected at Monday evening's 15th annual Celebration of Life Thanksgiving banquet at Boston's Hynes Auditorium. Hosted by the Boston Living Center, a South End agency that provides services for about 1,700 people with HIV, the banquet reconnects old friends who swap enduring tales and reaffirm one another's battles with HIV. For many attendees, homeless or out of touch with relatives, the dinner is a kind of family reunion and a touchstone for unity among members of the area's dispossessed HIV/AIDS population.
Struggling to regroup after losing $50,000 in state aid, BLC had decided earlier this fall to cancel the dinner. "I thought about a lot of the friends that were here last year who aren't here this year," said Alfredo Hernandez, 38, a member and former employee of BLC. "Some of us don't have families, so we embrace each other here." The funding cuts forced the center to trim its staff and scale back programs. At the same time, BLC's food program, which served 40,000 meals a year, had stretched to accommodate more people. A Thanksgiving dinner was too great a burden.
Word reached City Hall, which administers a $500,000 annual federal grant to the center, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino made a phone call to the Boston Red Sox. The ball club, which is under new management, has been reaching out to communities it has not connected with in the past. The Red Sox took the lead in organizing the dinner, enlisting about 20 front-office personnel, rounding up volunteers, getting Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. to contribute half a ton of turkeys, and securing food contributions from other sources. BLC Executive Director Cathy A. Morales and Gary Sandison, Menino's AIDS advisor, agreed that it was unprecedented for a local professional sports franchise to partner with an AIDS-related organization.
On a budget of $1.9 million, BLC offers about 50 services and also houses more than a dozen AIDS-related agencies.
11.25.02; Corey Dade
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.