AHF affiliates are some of our most important partners, working closely with AHF to deliver patient care, social justice, and more where it’s needed most. This week we spoke with two leaders at AID Atlanta and the AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth.
Love & Service in the South
Insights from two of our closest affiliates in the Southern Bureau
Nicole Roebuck is Executive Director of AID Atlanta, an affiliate of AHF since June 2015.
Kelly Allen Gray is the executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, Texas, an affiliate of AHF since 2017.
CORE TOPICS + DETAILS:
[2:26] - 40 Years in Service
AID Atlanta’s path from grassroots to massive impact
AID Atlanta celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Nicole shares the organization’s path from a small group of people trying to give people living with HIV and AIDS a better life to operating a healthcare center, enormous case management program, housing programs, prevention and testing services, and more. The key to their longevity? Never losing that early sense of one-to-one service and grassroots energy.
[4:47] - The Evolving Story of AIDS Patient Care
From dark early days to a time of hope
When the AIDS Outreach Center was founded, its purpose was simply to help people with AIDS have an opportunity to die with grace and dignity. As our understanding of HIV and AIDS have evolved, that mission has expanded exponentially. They now offer a full-scale healthcare clinic, dental clinic, nutrition center, and much more. That evolution speaks to the positive evolution of how we’re able to help people live with and move beyond an HIV or AIDS diagnosis.
[10:09] - The Power of Affiliate Partnerships
From closing doors to opening new opportunities
Despite its vital mission, AID Atlanta was once on the brink of closing its doors due to financial constraints. But through the AHF affiliate program, they were able to ensure that the agency continued its legacy footprint in the Atlanta area. Stability, security, and availability for clients have all been the results of that affiliation and AID Atlanta’s continued service.
[25:49] - From Volunteers to Full-Time Staff
Getting involved with these key affiliates
Want to be a part of AID Atlanta or the AIDS Outreach Center? Go online at the links in the Resources section of these show notes to find out how you can serve. Volunteers at these organizations often go on to find more formal positions and make serving in the AIDS and HIV community a lifetime pursuit.
ABOUT AFTER HOURS:
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization, operating in 45 countries globally. The mission? Providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
The After Hours podcast is an official podcast of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in which host Lauren Hogan is joined by experts in a range of fields to educate, inform, and inspire listeners on topics that go far beyond medical information to cover leadership, creativity, and success.
Learn more at: https://www.aidshealth.org
ABOUT THE HOST:
Lauren Hogan is the Associate Director of Communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and has been working in a series of roles with the Foundation since 2016. She’s passionate about increasing the public visibility of AIDS, the Foundation's critical work, and how everyday people can help join the fight to make cutting-edge medicine, treatment, and support available for anyone who needs it.
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Get unfiltered lessons from our leaders at AHF, as we uncover real, raw stories of where we came from and where we are going. Join us for an unscripted look at the connections our senior leadership have to our mission, core values, and hot initiatives. AHF is the world's largest HIV/AIDS service organization operating in 45 countries globally, 16 states domestically, including DC and Puerto Rico. Our mission is to provide cutting edge medicine and advocacy, regardless of ability to pay. Hello, and welcome to the AHFter Hours podcast. I'm your host, Lauren Hogan, serving as your liaison to take you through this journey to learn more about AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Before we start the show, please make sure to remember to check out the show notes so you can follow along. Now, let's get started.
Well, hello, everyone and welcome back to another episode of the AHFter Hours podcast. As always, I'm your host, Lauren Hogan, and today we have a special episode where we get to talk to some of the heads of our Southern Bureau affiliates. So thank you guys so much for joining today, and we're going to just dive right in. Nicole, can you please introduce yourself, let us know what affiliate you are associated with, and what your role is.
Sure. Hi, Lauren. Good to hear from you. My name is Nicole Roebuck, I'm the executive director at AID Atlanta. We're located in Midtown Atlanta in Georgia. We've been an affiliate of AHF since June of 2015.
And how long have you been at AID Atlanta?
I have been at AID Atlanta for 22 years as of September 18.
We've got a vet on with us today. It's exciting. And Kelly?
I'm Kelly Allen Gray. I am the executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Our organization has been an affiliate since June, maybe 2017, November, October, 2017. And then I've been with the agency since July of last year.
So really quickly, so Nicole, I know that you were saying how long AID Atlanta has been there in the community. But can you just give us a little bit of history about the organization? Because there's something really special about AID Atlanta, so can you give us a little backstory?
Well, thank you for that. Yes. AID Atlanta actually this year is celebrating our 40th anniversary in the community. We started in 1982, as a grassroots response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic here in Atlanta. We've grown exponentially since that time. Starting off really as a grassroots, like I said, response, with people calling and trying to make people more comfortable, living at some times then with HIV and AIDS. And then we've evolved to having Healthcare Center, having a huge case management program, housing program, prevention and testing, huge volumes in that program. Also STD wellness services. And we've able through the affiliation with the chapter partner, with our wellness program as well as healthcare center. And they have pharmacies in both our local [inaudible 00:03:31]. So it's really been a great evolution of the AID, so we're proud to celebrate our 40-year anniversary.
And one other thing I want to touch on too, because we just had this event with you guys. You guys said we're putting on AIDS Walk Atlanta for the past over what, 30 years now?
And I mentioned that because the latest one just happened this past Sunday. And I know in a way, AHF, we've come in and really assisted you guys to make the event bigger. But can you talk about that too, and how that event has been for the community?
Sure. AIDS Walk Atlanta has been traditionally run by AID Atlanta. In the very early days, it's over 30 year old, if not 30 year old, walk event. And it's awareness event, it's a fundraising event, it's an event to bring the community together on behalf of the HIV-AIDS crisis. And there is still a crisis, and I think that the more we can continue to have events that bring awareness to the general community.
And Kelly, can you give us a little bit of the backstory for AIDS Outreach Center?
So AOC was founded in 1986. And when the organization was founded, the entire mission was to help people die with grace, who were living with HIV and AIDS. That mission, of course, over time has definitely evolved. And so our mission is to assist those who are at risk, and those living with HIV and AIDS. We are the largest service provider of HIV services in Tarrant County. And we also service five other counties surrounding us to the north, to the south and to the west. We are a full service healthcare clinic with the exception of the doctor and the pharmacy, which AHF is right next door to us. So we have a dental clinic, we do outreach and testing. We have a full nutrition center. So our clients go grocery shopping. We have an onsite nutritionist who helps with meal prep, and she does cooking demonstrations. Which is the best day ever in the building when she is cooking something. Because you can smell it, and everyone gravitates to it.
We do mental health counseling. Of course, we have full service case management. We have a PrEP program, we have a trans clinic. And then we also have our Impact Center, which is really just focused on young men. And so we've been doing that since 1986. And we were just awarded a grant using ARPA funds through Tarrant County, a million-dollar grant to do our Seasoned Survivors program. So it's addressing our clients who are aging, living with HIV. And making sure that they have all of the care that they need, because geriatric care is very different than just day-to-day care. And then many of our clients are living with comorbidities. And so making sure that you have also a safe space, that you can talk about all of those things but then still get the care that you need.
So Kelly, I'm going to kick a question back to you. So for you, what is the affiliation with AHF, not only done for your organization, but also for the population that you guys currently serve?
So considering I'm really new, I can only talk about what it was like, me coming in. So what it was like me coming in, it was, AHF is not our friend. However, but that was listening to points of view of people who had been there a really long time, and really had been in a place of complacency. And not really understanding the full gambit of the situation, of the organization, the financial situation and just all of those different things. Being that person who was fresh into the organization with a brand new set of eyes, and having someone or knowing that there was that person who could assist me, and being a part of turning the organization around. Of once I actually with a brand new team, created a plan and said, "Hey, this is what I want to do. This is how we need to move forward."
It's been great for me. My team is really new, because we lost probably about 18 people over the course of this year, because they didn't want to be on a different pathway. They were really good with being complacent. And so having AHF as my partner, having Mike Kahane in a phone call away and email away has been just really very beneficial for my organization. But also for my employees, because in January we switched over to AHF benefits. And let me tell you, it wasn't until July that we got everything all the way ironed out. But you can actually see the difference.
You see the difference, you feel the difference, and it's been great for me. So whatever happened, and I make it a point every day when someone who's been there for a long time says, "It's what we used to do, it's how we've always done it." Yeah, we don't do that no more. It's like it's a different day, it's a different ballgame. So if you're still living in the past, we don't wear the same halter tops that we wore in 1972. Though I was a kid, I didn't wear that. But times have changed. So either you're going to get on with the times moving, or you're not. But AHF has been such an amazing partner in just stepping in and helping me and my team through this transition.
That's fantastic. And Nicole, what about you?
So we've been an affiliate, like I said, since 2015, so this is our seventh year as an affiliate. And every affiliate comes to become an affiliate for different reasons, for various reasons. In Atlanta, situation was really on the brink of looking at potentially closing our doors, because of financial constraints. And as a result of the affiliate program, we were able to ensure that this agency continued with its legacy footprint in the Atlanta area. And what that has meant to the community, well, first what it's meant to the agency is a level of stability. We really didn't have a hundred percent stability in terms of the continuation of our programs, the security of our staff, and then being able that stayed around for clients that still needed us.
Again, we're the oldest in the Atlanta area. And in terms of the impact on the community, the impact has been definitely above and beyond probably what we could have thought. We expanded the reach, in terms of the numbers of patients that we see, in terms of the number of clients that we see, particularly in healthcare. Healthcare Center. Our Healthcare Center back in 2015 maybe had about 400 people, and it's up to about 2400 people now. In Newnan, we have the Healthcare Center.
And that was newish to us, and that clinic has gone from about 200 to 700 patients. So you can hear just the reach. We've always had a huge HIV testing volume. And just with the additional supplementing of resources and providers and adding the wellness component, we've had a tiny STD program and through wellness, we've been able to grow that in a huge way. So HIV testing, STD screening and treatment has become a great partnership. I think it's one of the best examples of that true partnership that can happen when organizations focus on the real goal, which is to serve the members. But it's been a great opportunity for us to expand, but still maintain our legacy and our footprint as AID Atlanta. So it's definitely been a benefit to the agency, for our staff, and to the community.
So I want to put an emphasis on something, because you both have individually touched on this. The fact that community is really what drives you guys as organizations. So you've kind of touched on it, but what does it mean to have an organization like yours in the community at the end of the day? What is that like? If you want to give feedback from what your patients or the clients say, but just how is that importance felt to what your organization does? Kelly, I'll go to you first.
So until last year, AOC had not actually been out in the community. If you needed something, you had to come inside of our doors. And so that was really frustrating to me when I kept saying, "Okay, so what do we do?" And we just didn't do it. So last year, we have North Texas Giving Day. And so it is the day where all of the nonprofits across North Texas, they sign up as a part of Communities Foundation, and people can give to the different nonprofits. And so I was talking to someone, so I was talking about North Texas Giving Day and they said, "Oh, we don't really don't participate in North Texas Giving Day. We normally get about $3,000." I said, "Okay, well, no problem. We're going to participate in North Texas Giving Day, and I promise you, we're probably going to raise about $10,000 on North Texas Giving Day."
And they're like, "No, don't think so. I love a good party." And let me tell you, Nicole, I hated I could not make it to your party. Because I was looking like, "Oh my gosh, that could be great." So we hosted a party on the parking lot, and we hosted it in partnership with AHF. And we did it from 12 to two, and we went door to door. And we invited all of our neighbors around us, because we're literally in a neighborhood. We're on a commercial corridor, but there's a neighborhood that backs up to us. So we knocked on everybody's door, all along the commercial corridor, because we needed parking. So we invited all of their workers to come have lunch with us. We threw this huge party on the parking lot for two hours. We raised $15,000. Everyone was blown away. So they said, "Are we going to do it next year?"
I was like, "Oh, heck no. I just needed y'all to understand we could throw a party, right? This is easy, we're going to do this with our eyes closed." So we were going to have a World AIDS Day event, but then Texas's numbers went really crazy, especially in Tarrant County. So we are our own super-spreader county. So we I figured we could not host a super-spreader event. So I went to California to participate in that event. So this year for back to school, I used to serve on city council. Prior to my time coming to AOC, I served nine years on Fort Worth City Council. And I would always host with some community partners, a back to school event. My person who proceeds me on council does not like to do community events. And so I got a call from one of the foundations and said, "Hey, we're looking for a place to land a back to school event."
"Will you host a back to school event?" "Except we really don't want to talk about HIV, we don't want to talk about AIDS." "Okay, great. Because I'm not talking about it, but you are going to be on my parking lot and we are going to do testing and we are going to have every resource available. So I'm not going to talk about it. I'm just going to put it out there." "Cool, that works for you, it works for me." So all of the community partners came together. We had 500 backpacks and we said, "Oh, I don't think we're going to be able to give away 500 backpacks." 4,000 people later.
It was an amazing day. The pediatric immunization unit said they only had 30 slots to do immunizations. So then they called and said, "Hold on, wait, our phones are ringing off the hook. I know your event starts at 10, but can we start at nine, and do you mind if we stay until three?" "Absolutely not." The church said, "Okay, we'll donate you our food giveaway that we're going to do that weekend, and we'll come running." So Tarrant Area Food Bank delivered a box truck of food that may have been five pallets. A few minutes later, after they've unloaded, they've gotten everything all set up. This big 18-wheeler shows up and we're like, "What are we supposed to do with it?" The lady from Tarrant Area Food Bank called and said, "Oh, we didn't realize it was a back to school event. Because you need milk, you need eggs, you need cheese. You need lunch meat, you need bread, you need all of these things for kids to have lunches to go back to school. And you need little lunch bags."
So we had another 25 pallets of food that we were like, "Oh my gosh, what are we going to do with it?" So we opened up a drive-through food giveaway. And so we gave away the 500 backpacks like that really quickly. And then we got a call from our sponsor, that was on a Saturday. Two days later, the sponsor said, "I don't think I gave you enough money." "I don't think you did either, but we'll be back next year and we're going to make this happen." And so that's what being in the community means, because my team had never really seen what it means to be a part of, to be a part of giving versus being a part of taking.
And so to be able to provide school supplies and immunizations and food, and whatever it was that you needed that day, if you showed up on our parking lot, it happened for you. From diabetes screening to mammograms to just, it was like, "Okay, let's just have a whole day of." And it was absolutely amazing to be able to have your organization, my organization, as the forefront of something that was bigger than what the independent school district had done.
And to have them calling us on Monday saying, "Hey, if we give you our money, can you do it? Will you do it next year?" "Absolutely." And we have the numbers to prove every single thing it is that we did. So this year we are hosting a World AIDS Day event. We're hosting the Red Ribbon Gala on World AIDS Day. And it is a whole formal affair, with music and everything that is all about AHF, because AHF loves a good party. And so do I. So that makes this partnership really great for me. But just being out there, and having our clients. And not just our clients, but our clients and their families know that they're someone who is there who's supporting them, it goes a long way, and it makes all of the difference in the world. And we have to because for us, we're not out in the community, we can't just expect people to just walk through our doors. We have to be able to tell the story out in the world.
So Nicole, before I get to you, Kelly, I just want to touch on what you just described. Because I think a lot of the times when people think of just healthcare, they just think of this one component. But it really is all of those things that you described. Healthcare, if you're going to be a healthy person, living a healthy life, that involves food. That involves having access to get tested. It involves having access to know, are you diabetic. It's all of these different components. So I think that it's beautiful that you were able to show the circle of life, in essence, of healthcare in a way. But saying that to say, Nicole, I'm going to turn it over to you to get your expected from Atlanta, and what it means for Atlanta be in the community.
So AID Atlanta, it's exciting to hear that all that's going on with AOC. So AID Atlanta, that's one of the things that we've been doing is being able to be out in the community. It started just like I said, grassroots, making sure that people had our information so that they knew we were here for them. We're one of the earliest organizations. So have that reputation in terms of being a go-to organization for whether it's resources for HIV-AIDS, medical care, case management, testing services, mental health, whatever it is.
So some of the things, that means as we have lot of letter of agreements and partnerships with different organizations, entities from AFC centers, different places where we try to be where the people are at. So we have a combination, of course, of things that happen at our sites, as well as things that happen in the community. We try to hire staff as well, who are the community, so that they can engage on that level with the people who need our services. We have what's called an engagement network, they do lots of things out in the community in order to attract again, engage folk. Let them know that we're here for them, let them know that have some place to go when they our help or our services and support. With Sisters With a Voice program, as well, women's program. Just trying to be out there in the community.
Our program has always been in, one of the unique things about our case management program is we have about 10 case managers who are based in our other community sites. So the Ryan White Clinics and the VA, and the jail systems. And so that's another way that we've able those community partnerships is again, by trying be in the places where people are at, instead of having them potentially have to only travel to one place, our site in Newnan. And that covers a more rural area, Cobb County [inaudible 00:24:12] district.
And we've been also trying to, here in the rural areas, they have, not that Metro doesn't have some of the challenges, but it's even more excessively in rural areas where HIV and AIDS community a stigma. So we've been trying to do different events in the community so that folk are aware of that resource there. For example, coming up in October, at ACC, they're going to do a Halloween harvest-type event for kids. And again, just let people know that we're in the area. We've done, of course, back to school parties and holiday parties for the kids and families. Where we give out gifts, has been a staple from staple programs, staple activities. As Kelly Allen said, it definitely is important for people know that you are part of the community. And ways we can ensure that we give back in addition, versus only getting, taking all of that. I would agree with that.
So as unfortunately, we are at time now. But I do have one final question for you both. And that is, how can people get involved if they want to help with either of you guys' organizations?
So good way to do that. We have volunteer opportunities. Sometimes people just start off as volunteers. On our website, www.aidatlanta.org, there's no S. Atlanta.org. They can go on site. There's a link on there, where if people want to volunteer or become more knowledgeable about what we do, that's one of the easiest ways to become involved. Of course, AIDS Walk is finished, but that's another way that folk can be involved with city AIDS Walk opportunities. So I would say follow us on our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and all of the social media platforms. And find out about what we're doing, and even how we can support you.
So exactly like Nicole said, there's a whole link on our website at www.AOC.org that will allow you to sign up, register to become a volunteer. We do tours, so come and take a tour. Love showing off what's going on at the clinic right now. We're actually painting. We have an artist who is painting a mural that we are going to unveil on World AIDS Day. So there's always something going on. And then of course, we're on every social media platform from Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. So like us and follow us, and just see what's happening. We'd love to have you in our building.
Well, I got to say thank you both so much, and thank you as well for spearheading such amazing organizations who do amazing work for the community. It's greatly appreciated, and I look forward to hearing updates about more of what's to come. So thank you guys so much. Thank
Thank you, Lauren.
Thank you, Lauren.
Thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support the show, please subscribe, share it with your friends, like. Post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. Follow us on Instagram at AHFter Hours, and see you next time.