Funds used as a last resort - Catholic Courier

Funds used as a last resort

IRONDEQUOIT — Imagine one of your parents dying — and not being able to afford proper clothes for the funeral.

This is the situation faced last year by children whose parent was a client of the AIDS Services program of Catholic Charities Community Services. Jane Hallinen, director of AIDS Services, said funds from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal enabled her office to help the children obtain formal clothes for the funeral.

Hallinen said her agency has used Christmas Appeal funds to buy diapers and baby formula; make security deposits on rental apartments; obtain copies of birth certificates that facilitate enrollment in other forms of assistance; and purchase a commode for a woman who had recently been released from a physical rehabilitation center. The agency even used appeal funds to purchase an answering machine for a client so that the client could receive reminders of medical appointments, she said, noting that dementia is a symptom of AIDS.

Clients using Christmas Appeal funds receive vouchers, not money, and must prove they used them for the purposes intended, Hallinen said.

“These aren’t families that are trying to take advantage of the system,” she said of her clients. “They’re just trying to make ends meet the best they can. All of a sudden, something pops up, and they don’t have the money for it. There’s no disposable income to use.”

AIDS Services, which is based in Irondequoit, helped 550 clients and their families during the past year, Hallinen said. The agency provides case management; emergency assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities payments; rent subsidies; limited subsidized housing; and camping and learning experiences for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Services received 50 requests for emergency assistance not covered by other funding sources over the last year, Hallinen said, and Christmas Appeal proceeds funded all of them. This is the 35th year of the annual appeal, which frequently assists people who are ineligible or awaiting eligibility for other forms of assistance. The appeal’s 2004-2005 goal is $54,000.

In addition to AIDS Services and other programs of Catholic Charities Community Services, appeal proceeds go to the emergency funds of the various offices of Catholic Charities throughout the diocese, as well Kinship Family and Youth Services, Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation and various Rochester parishes and ministries. Community Services receives 5 percent of appeal donations.

Hallinen pointed out that about half of her clients have “support systems” such as family members to help them, but that the other half are on their own. And even though the public is increasingly better-informed about AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, there’s still a stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, she said.

“AIDS is almost like the biblical leprosy,” she said. “It’s not a socially acceptable illness.”

Some of her clients are afraid to turn to churches for help because they fear being judged or condemned for being HIV-positive, she said. Many parents don’t tell their children they have AIDS, she said, and children who do know may be afraid to share that knowledge with their friends or schoolmates.

“AIDS is about secrets,” Hallinen said.

AIDS Services is devoted to helping those affected by the disease, regardless of race, creed, gender, age or sexual orientation, and Hallinen noted that donations to the Christmas Appeal make possible a vital part of the agency’s work.

“These monies are used as a last resort, monies used when we’ve exhausted any other way of funding,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To contribute to the Christmas Appeal, mail your check or money order (payable to “Christmas Appeal”) to: Christmas Appeal, c/o Catholic Courier, PO Box 24379, Rochester, NY 14624-0379. Please enclose your name and mailing address so we may send an acknowledgement for tax purposes.

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