Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hurricane Relief Forward Fund Created by GMHC Following Cancellation of Fashion Forward Event

Later today, Thursday, November 8, would have been the night of our annual fundraiser, Fashion Forward, which honors the nexus of fashion and AIDS activism.  Yet following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, and the impact it has had on our clients, GMHC cancelled the event to focus on our core mission--serving people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.  To achieve this mission, a new fund was created by GMHC, Hurricane Relief Forward, for our disaster relief work.  This unrestricted fund includes a matching program, initially sponsored by four of our most generous donors and we now ask for support.  The program has started with $33,500, so we are seeking donations which will be matched, thus doubling the contributions.

Donors to the fund include members of the GMHC Board of Directors, with the founding donation being from Board member Craig de Thomas, the Chief Executive Officer of Insignia National Title Agency, LLC.  Craig explained, "It was heart-wrenching to see how many of our clients were in great need and despair after the hurricane hit NYC.  Volunteering was not enough and that's why I am determined to put my resources where they will have an impact. I am honored to step forward with financial support."  To donate to GMHC's Hurricane Relief Forward, please visit our  For questions, please contact (212) 367-1281 or email Sherry Card at

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers living with or affected by HIV/AIDS were hit hard.  GMHC's clients include some of the poorest and most vulnerable New Yorkers, and Hurricane Sandy had a disproportionate effect on them.  We were saddened to cancel Fashion Forward, but know that under these circumstances, it was the correct decision.   As we worked through last week, it became clear the disaster's aftermath was much worse than what we originally anticipated, so we are concentrating our efforts on addressing these needs.

Many of our clients continue to be without housing, food, electricity, clothing and HIV medications--and need basic humanitarian support.  On Monday, October 29 and Wednesday, October 31, several clients braved the weather, walking from their homes in the Bronx and Brooklyn to our offices on West 33rd Street for a hot meal.  This may have been their only meal of the day.  Well over 400 meals were served in the heart of the crisis, even when subways had not resumed, with clients making their way long distances to receive food and assistance.  We sent home care packages with clients on Monday knowing that they might not have access to any food on Tuesday, October 30, and we were not able to be open with the closure of the subways.

Not only HIV-positive clients are in crisis, one high-risk, HIV-negative client needed to see three staff persons including our psychologist, attorney and benefits advocate because the crises he was experiencing seemed insurmountable.  The rest of last week, hundreds more came through our doors needing urgent care.  It continues to be critical that we are here for our clients, providing meals and bags of groceries, linkages to housing and crisis counseling.  One client on Staten Island called in dire panic as her home had been destroyed and she had not been able to find temporary housing.  GMHC immediately took action and now she is safe in a temporary shelter.

Our clients who live in areas without power had problems accessing their HIV medications and needed immediate intervention.  We worked with our pharmacy contacts to successfully resolve their issues. 

Our Mental Health Services have provided daily crisis counseling and the numbers of clients needing to talk remains high.  Our Meals Program and Keith Haring Food Pantry Program continue to have high volume, with more people needing assistance than prior to Hurricane Sandy.  Our Case Management department continues to address housing needs of many clients, some of whom have been dislocated by the hurricane.

GMHC remains focused on our core mission in the hurricane's aftermath.  Hurricane Relief Forward, dedicated to assisting people living with HIV/AIDS, allows us to continue our disaster relief work as our efforts increase.  Seth Rosen, JD, Managing Director of Development at GMHC, noted, "On the day before the hurricane, and the week following it, I helped serve meals and tended to immediate needs of our clients.  I was deeply moved by the experience and how our staff, board members and volunteers stepped up in those difficult days.  With this new fund, we will be able to increase our support for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy."

GMHC is especially grateful to the abundance of Fashion Forward donors, who upon learning of the difficulties being faced by our clients, graciously allowed their funds to be utilized for these efforts. 

To donate to GMHC's Hurricane Relief Forward, please visit our  For questions, please contact (212) 367-1281 or email Sherry Card at

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