For the last year I have really been feeling the urge to get involved in giving back. As a member of greek life when I was in college at Kennesaw State, volunteer and philanthropic opportunities were very readily available to us. It was easy! All I had to do was show up to the events that were already organized for us, sign in, put in my hours, and I was good to go. I was literally just checking a box off on a checklist of things I "had to do". At 18, I had other things on my mind, and my heart wasn't really in it.
Since going alum from my sorority and leaving KSU, volunteering has taken a little bit more effort. For the last two years I haven't made the time for volunteer work and I have really felt it weighing on my heart. There are so many volunteer opportunities in Atlanta, so there really wasn't any excuse, so I made a conscious effort to keep my eyes peeled for possible volunteer opportunities, specifically photography related ones. Soon after, I came across a post in a local photographers group needing a replacement volunteer to photograph a fund-raising event. I applied and heard back from the organization later that week. Since learning more about the organization I have grown to love everything they stand for and plan to offer non photography related volunteer hours this summer!
Open Hand’s legacy of service began over 27 years ago when founder, Michael Edwards, was joined by several of his friends to cook meals for neighbors who were dying of HIV/AIDS. From that noble and caring effort, a nutrition agency was born that has since grown to become the primary provider of medically-appropriate meals and nutrition education for our friends and neighbors in metro Atlanta living with HIV/AIDS. While the prognosis for individuals infected with HIV has dramatically improved, sadly this disease is still a crisis for our community.Consider these facts:
- According to the Southern AIDS Coalition, Atlanta ranks #1 in the country for the rate of new cases of HIV/AIDS.
- 2013 Atlanta EMA data shows between 1,400 and 1,500 individuals are diagnosed with HIV each year.
- Our colleagues at Grady Infectious Disease Clinic report that 2 to 3 patients are diagnosed every day there, and roughly half already have AIDS.
- Total diagnosed in Georgia is 51,676 including adults and adolescents age 13 and above. 30, 953 of these individuals reside in Atlanta.
For people with compromised immune systems, nutrition is vital to managing their health: Studies document that people living with HIV/AIDS who are food insecure are less likely to have undetectable viral loads; have lower CD4 counts; and are more likely to miss primary care appointments needed to monitor their health.
On the evening of April 26th thousands of people throughout the city of Atlanta dined out at more than 100 participating restaurants. 25% or more of those bills will be donated to Open Hand Atlanta to improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable friends and neighbors! It's about more than a meal. It’s about doing the right thing. Because many of our friends and neighbors cannot afford proper nutrition, some are too sick to prepare their own meals, and thousands of others are at risk for chronic disease simply because of their diets.
These are the faces behind 25 years of service!