Aids Alliance to hold benefit fashion show and reception at Savage Mill Money to support people with AIDS

June 25, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Diane is a 34-year-old single mother of three who has AIDS. Her world revolves around caring for her illness so she can take care of her children.

Diane, who asked that her real name not be used, says she couldn't do either without the Aids Alliance of Howard County, the nonprofit agency that coordinates services for county residents who test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. When possible, the alliance also provides them with emergency financial help.

The alliance has come through twice with grants totaling $2,200 when Diane got behind on the $800 monthly rent on her Columbia home.

"I live above my means, but I want to stay here for my kids," said Diane, who receives $448 a month in Social Security benefits in addition to food stamps.

"For a lot of us, the Aids Alliance is our lifeline; they're helping us survive in Howard County," she said.

On Sunday the alliance has scheduled one of its two yearly fund-raisers, a fashion show in the Great Ballroom at Savage Mill. The event, called "Love is in Fashion," begins with a reception at 7 p.m. followed by the show at 8 p.m.

Neal A. Wise, a member of the alliance's fund-raising committee and coordinator of the fashion show, is a research assistant at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he works with people who have acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The fashion show "is for the community to reach out and help other people in their community," Mr. Wise said.

The Aids Alliance of Howard County was founded in 1988 by the Rev. Arthur Lillicrop, chaplain at Howard County General Hospital; Dr. Joyce Boyd, the county's health officer; Pat Johnston, an AIDS prevention specialist with the school system; and Elaine Patico, director of support services for Hospice Services of Howard County.

The group's goal was to coordinate various services in the county available to people with AIDS, determine the people's needs, and serve as an information and referral service.

"We certainly realized [AIDS] was going to be affecting people in Howard County, although not in great numbers," said Ann Wicke, alliance president and coordinator of the Howard County Disabilities Services Office.

Since the reporting of AIDS cases began in 1981, there have been 78 reported cases in Howard County, according to the county Health Department. Forty-eight have died.

Originally, the alliance did not intend to become a money-dispensing agency, Ms. Wicke said. That changed when local dancer and choreographer Carolyn Kelemen proposed a benefit variety show for the alliance, with the proceeds going toward emergency assistance for people with AIDS.

The show, called "Labor of Love," was presented Labor Day 1988 and has become an alliance tradition.

Since then, the alliance has used its emergency fund to help about 30 people with AIDS. The fund has covered expenses including rent, mortgage, utility bills, medical bills, food, transportation and funeral costs.

The alliance raises about $8,000 to $12,000 annually through private donations, grants and fund-raisers, and its goal is to spend the money each year on the immediate needs of county residents with AIDS, such as Diane.

In addition to helping with her rent, the alliance pays for Diane's cab fare and child care, so she can get to her weekly HIV support group, and her therapist, whom she sees twice a week. The agency also helped her apply for medical benefits.

"If I could not get to therapy, I would probably have been dead a long time ago," Diane said. "If I don't see her I'm so depressed, all I can think about is dying."

The alliance's emergency fund is crucial because while people who are HIV-positive can often work and rely on their insurance coverage, they usually reach a point when they become too sick to work and must wait for their Social Security and medical benefits. During this transition time, many people ask the alliance for help, Ms. Wicke said.

"The Aids Alliance is there to give them assistance without the red tape of filling out form after form," Mr. Wise said. "It's very important to have an organization like this which can give financial or moral support to patients."

AIDS FUND-RAISER

Tickets for the "Love is in Fashion" fund-raiser are $30; $18 for students and senior citizens. All proceeds will go to Aids Alliance Howard County. Information: (301) 317-4007, (410) 381-0570.

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