Illinois: Agency Offers Healthy Path to New Start
December 31, 2007
Vital Bridges, a Chicago nonprofit agency that serves HIV/AIDS patients, estimates that more than 26,000 people in the metro area have the virus. Vital Bridges offers free food services, nutrition counseling, housing assistance, case management, and education and vocational training to more than 2,100 HIV/AIDS patients.
The agency is one of the Chicago groups supported by Chicago Tribune Holiday Giving, a campaign of Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Tribune Foundation fund.
Vital Bridges' chief business development officer, Chuck Benya, said many clients were living in poverty even before they were diagnosed. "First, there's the stigma of HIV and AIDS," Benya said. "Then the fatigue from medication. Keeping a full-time job becomes hard. Staying alive becomes doubly hard."
A third of Vital Bridges' annual budget of $3.6 million comes from private donors. The group has five strategically placed grocery centers throughout the metro area, and also provides a home-delivered meal and grocery program. The food service gives more than 500,000 meals annually to some 1,600 clients.
Registered dieticians help clients manage medications, maintain ideal weight, and, for some, create meal plans based on their medications and conditions. Case managers help clients develop short- and long-term goals; the education and vocational program assists with improving skills such as computer literacy and job-readiness training.
The housing program helps put clients in safe living conditions and helps them secure and maintain their own housing. The organization says more than 200 clients benefit from the housing service.
12.28.2007; Erika Slife