November 9, 2005

What better way to commemorate World AIDS Day than by hearing the voices of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS?

ASC will mark this year's World AIDS Day with a Poet's Café featuring readings by members of ASC's weekly Creative Writing Workshop in connection with the release of Situations 8, ASC's literary magazine. ASC's innovative programming promotes harm reduction, recovery, self-esteem, and well-being among persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Poet's Café takes place on Thursday, December 1 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at ASC's main program office at 41 East 11th Street (between Broadway and University Place), on the fifth floor. We hope you'll join us.

November 9, 2005

In our September/October issue, we highlighted the experiences of three ASC community volunteers. With ASC's eventful holiday season almost upon us, now is the perfect time to join these individuals and many others who give so generously of their time during one of our busiest times of year.

Volunteers are needed to help serve the holiday meal at ASC's annual Thanksgiving Dinner-Dance, wrap presents for our Client Holiday Party, assist with our seasonal mailings, and so much more. By volunteering at ASC this holiday season, you can help to provide a joyous, memorable holiday for hundreds of New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. For a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit our Get Involved page.

November 9, 2005

Only 57 tiles remain to be sold before the ASC Mosaic of Life is complete!

Purchasing a tile is a great way to memorialize loved ones and honor fellow community members by "naming" a commemorative tile, and creating a tribute that will resonate for years to come. Join the ASC Mosaic of Life and purchase a tile today by clicking here.

The Mosaic of Life will be permanently installed in ASC's reception area. A special ceremony to "unveil" the Mosaic of Life will be held in early Spring 2006 for all those who helped to make this wonderful project a reality.

November 9, 2005
ASC's pantry bags contain a variety of fresh and canned foods that are nutritious and easy to prepare.
Image Gallery: 1 | 2 | 3

ASC has always known that to engage people in HIV risk reduction and health maintenance, their fundamental need for food, shelter, and clothing must first be addressed. Once these essentials are in place, attention can be focused on reducing risk and promoting physical and emotional self-care.

ASC's Basic Needs Program is founded on this principle. The program includes our "Wonderful Wearables" Clothing Room, Direct Aid Emergency Assistance Program, and onsite meal program. Two additional programs—the ASC Pantry and ASC Kitchen—ensure that our clients have enough food to eat and the knowledge to prepare meals that can boost their immune system, energy level, and overall health.

In a typical month, the ASC Pantry provides 100 ASC clients with a three-day supply of vegetables, fruits, meats, beans, grains, and other foods than promote good nutrition. Distribution takes place on the third Friday of every month.

In the eyes of Fulvia Alvelo, Co-Director of Prevention Services, the ASC Pantry is "a beautiful program." Her reasoning? "Many of our clients cannot afford things most of us take for granted—like being able to buy a whole bunch of bananas or a bag of oranges. When I see clients—especially those with children—arrive for the Pantry, I know we are improving their quality of life by providing nutritious food that they lack the resources to buy."

But that's not all. "The ASC Pantry shows clients that we care about them," adds Alvelo, "and this helps to engage them in services. Some people come to ASC for the first time through the Pantry, but once they see how well they are treated here, they decide to access other services. The Pantry is part of a larger effort to remove the barriers that keep people from getting the help they need."

The Pantry's "sister" program is the ASC Kitchen, a weekly nutrition education group that serves 20 to 30 individuals who gather together to share a hot lunch and learn about healthy eating, cooking, and food preparation.

"We demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals using hot plates, because many of our clients—especially those living in single-room occupancy hotels—don't have a stove," explains ASC Harm Reduction Specialist Suzanne Bessoir, who co-facilitates the ASC kitchen with a Peer Educator. The group also shares healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes. "We eat the foods we cook during the group," says Bessoir, "and the group gets more popular all the time."

November 9, 2005

"I came to ASC in 2002 and went through the Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP) and other trainings before being assigned as a Peer Volunteer in ASC's Food Pantry. I'm responsible for the whole process: I order the food, plan the orders to provide balanced nutrition and vitamin intake, coordinate the process of storing the food before we bag it up for clients, keep the shelves restocked, and supervise other Peers who help to assemble the food packages and distribute them to clients.

"On the Wednesday before our monthly food pantry distribution, five or six other Peers and I meet in the ASC Kitchen to assemble the pantry bags. The packing process takes two or three hours because we assemble more than 100 bags. The food we provide is different each month. This month's bags include fruit juice, spinach, rice, kidney peas, canned beef stew, canned tomatoes, cooking oil, milk, fruit cocktail, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

"I really like being an ASC Peer—and I say that as someone with 40 years of experience as a volunteer in many different places. I started volunteering at age 13. In Ghana, my homeland, I first volunteered for an organization called the Volunteer Work Association. We helped to build primary schools for the local children, assisting the bricklayers and volunteering in whatever way was needed to get the schools built.

"The men and women who come to the ASC Food Pantry have been through so much and are under a lot of stress. They have nowhere to turn, so they come to this agency, where they can get the help they need. I like being part of that; it feels very good to help people in need."

November 9, 2005

ASC holiday cards are on sale now! The cards feature a colorful, spirited mural by ASC clients and Peer Educators and make great holiday greetings or gifts.

Got any theater-lovers on your holiday gift list this year? If so, you'll want to check out our collection of autographed theater memorabilia, graciously donated by Martian Entertainment, LLC. All items, including keepsakes from "Fiddler on the Roof" and a signed poster from the off-Broadway hit musical " Altar Boyz," will be auctioned off on eBay throughout November.

All proceeds from ASC's holiday gift items will directly support ASC's programs and services. To purchase holiday cards and for links to current eBay auctions, click here.

November 9, 2005

Recently, ASC's Food Pantry has garnered support from two very different quarters—the internationally renowned Danspace Project and the New York University Stern School of Business. Their "can-do" attitude is helping ASC to ensure that along with facing HIV/AIDS, our clients need not face hunger as well.

On December 16, 17, and 18, Danspace Project will present its acclaimed Food for Thought benefit performance/canned food drive. The benefit series collects non-perishable food items and showcases eclectic dance performances described as "remarkable" by Time Out New York. ASC's Food Pantry is the recipient of this year's event.

We hope you'll join us at the upcoming Food for Thought performance. Tickets are $5, plus 2 cans of food per person. For information and ticket reservations, visit

Dancers, choreographers, and culture fans aren't the only ones keeping ASC's Food Pantry well stocked this autumn. In September, ASC's friends at the NYU Stern School of Business held a can drive to benefit ASC. This effort yielded more than 100 cans of nutritious food, which have already been distributed to clients in need through our Food Pantry.

ASC is grateful for the generous support of our neighbors at Danspace Project and NYU.

November 9, 2005
Seated (l-r): Nancy Simboli (AIDS Institute), Sal Catalano (ASC), Sharen Duke (ASC), Dr. Guthrie Birkhead (AI), and Barbara Devore (AI). Standing (l-r): ASC staff members Sara Gillen, Michael Clarke, Cecilia Gloss-Peña (ASC Peer), Janet Weinberg, Ramona Cummings, David Lopez, and Nionne James.

In September, Dr. Guthrie Birkhead, Director of the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute visited ASC's new home at 41 East 11th Street in Manhattan.

Joined by Barbara Devore (Deputy Director), and Nancy Simboli (Contract Manager), Dr. Birkhead received a personalized tour of ASC and met with staff and Peer Educators to discuss the agency's successes, challenges, and future plans. Remarking that he was "very impressed" with the new facilities, Dr. Birkhead made a point of reaffirming ASC's key role in New York State's vision for HIV/AIDS community programming.

"In this time of cutbacks and fiscal uncertainty, AIDS programs are continually being asked to do more with less," says ASC's Executive Director/CEO Sharen Duke. "It's good to know we have a friend in the AIDS Institute, which has continually proven its steadfast commitment to New Yorkers affected by and at risk for HIV/AIDS."

AIDS Service Center got its start in 1990 thanks to a base grant from the AIDS Institute. With the Institute's continued support—along with funding from ten other government grants and the generous support of thousands of community members—ASC has expanded our services to include peer training, HIV testing, and a wide array of support groups. The tour of our facilities offered an opportunity to showcase these achievements.

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