All in the meaning
As a recipient of a 2012 Advocates of the Year award from the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago (ALCC) and Windy City Times, I want to thank the HIV/AIDS community for the honor and recognition. It means so much to me after working in the field for 14 years (and volunteering for 18) to get accolades from colleagues who I hold in such high esteem. So many talented, committed individuals preceded me and I look forward to the recipients to follow in these next years.
I do want to address one word that was used in the Windy City Times article describing my work at Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry: "destitute." To me, "destitute" implies a lack of ALL resources for a person's subsistence; it carries a connotation of hopelessness. I strongly disagree that the people living with HIV whose homes exist at Bonaventure House, The Harbor and Bettendorf Place, embody this definition. On the contrary, the residents of our programs come to us with fierce spirit, determination, and the ability to regain independence.
In fact, 50 percent of the residents are enrolled in formal education programs and more than 25 percent of residents are employed. Many, many others are engaged in volunteer work in the community. The AIDS Ministry provides the opportunity for personal growth and excellence of each person who walks through our open door.
I would be remiss as an AIDS advocate to not object to and seek clarification of the word "destitute." It is a commendation to HIV/AIDS service providers and to all men and women living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicagoland area that we have come so far from the days in the 1980's where individuals had little resources and comforts. The men and women who make Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry home are full of riches of spirit and accomplishment. They make me proud to come to work every day and be a part of such a dedicated community.
I again thank the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago and Windy City Times for the recognition they bestowed upon me. I hope to be afforded the opportunity to continuing advocating for men and women living with HIV/AIDS until the day comes when each person has access to the basic human rights of healthcare and housing.
Cheryl Potts Executive Director Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, Chicago
AIDS Legal Council of Chicago Executive Director Ann Hilton Fisher responded:
We are so grateful to Windy City Times for co-sponsoring the Advocates of the Year Awards and for the wonderful article about this year's great award winners in last week's paper.
We want to acknowledge that we were the ones responsible for using the word "destitute" to describe those who receive such excellent services from Bonaventure House. We, of course, were using the word strictly in the economic sense. We agree with Ms. Potts that her clients, and ours, are rich in many other ways and bring great gifts to our work and our communities.