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VOL. 127 | NO. 30 | Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jeremy Park

Making Friends For Life

By Jeremy Park

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Last week we reflected on a recent visit from LPBC guest speaker, Dr. Joseph Michelli, who shared the personal and community value of creating a legacy statement – one sentence that defines our impact on Earth and how others will remember us after we are gone. This week let us explore an organization with the mission of helping people affected by HIV/AIDS live well: Friends For Life Corp.

Friends For Life Corp. has been serving the Mid-South for 27 years. Established in 1985 as the Aid to End AIDS Committee by a group of friends whose loved ones were dying from complications associated with HIV/AIDS, the organization later became known as Friends For Life and merged with another nonprofit, Aloysius Home, to significantly expand its services to include permanent supportive housing.

Now, as one of the oldest and most comprehensive AIDS service organizations in the southern United States, Friends For Life annually serves an average of 2,500 individuals affected with HIV/AIDS.

When it comes to programs, Friends For Life has a comprehensive, client-centered approach that includes education, housing, food, and healthy life skills, along with a strong support network. Through collaboration with more than 25 medical providers, social service agencies and pharmaceutical companies, the organization coordinates Wellness University, which offers a variety of educational and skills-building programs with an emphasis on learning how to live with HIV/AIDS.

The group’s Nancy Fletcher Food Pantry is the second-largest food pantry in the Mid-South, providing up to 16 tons of food per month to over 1,500 persons affected by HIV/AIDS, including 250 children. Permanent supportive housing is provided in an agency-owned apartment building with other housing provided through tenant-based rental assistance.

With an estimated 10,000 individuals living in the Mid-South affected by HIV/AIDS, there is much that we can do to help further Friends For Life’s efforts. Part of its goal is to help heighten awareness, facilitate acceptance and promote prevention in the community. Personally having friends affected with HIV/AIDS, many stories are touching. For instance, one friend was infected through a blood transfusion related to a medical emergency. Friends For Life offers HIV testing, along with prevention education that is extremely valuable for our community to be equipped with facts.

There are many opportunities to volunteer. The organization hosts free congregate meals, known as Feast for Friends, twice a month at St. John’s Methodist Church. This is a perfect opportunity to help cook or serve meals. Help is always appreciated in the food pantry to help restock the shelves. If you have skills or expertise that you would be willing to share, consider teaching a class at Wellness University.

Simply taking a tour of their facility at 43 N. Cleveland St. is a good start. Learn more by visiting www.friendsforlifecorp.org or contacting their executive director, Kim Daugherty, at 272-0855 or kim.daughtery@friendsforlifecorp.org.

Jeremy Park, director of communications at Lipscomb Pitts Insurance and director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com.

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