On HVCS’ 30th Anniversary: An Open Letter

March 3, 1986. That’s the date when John Egan, the first Executive Director of the organization that eventually became Hudson Valley Community Services, signed the papers to incorporate as the Mid-Hudson Valley AIDS Task Force. These papers also established the agency’s “doing business as” name: AIDS-Related Community Services, or ARCS. John and a few other volunteers worked with the New York State Health Department’s new AIDS Institute for two and a half years before that point to line up funding, establish a hotline to answer questions about AIDS, and provide the bare beginnings of education for the public about what turned out to be a long-lasting epidemic.

As John said in a recent interview (this month), no one expected AIDS to last that long—they thought it would be cured within a few years. They likely had no idea how long the new agency would last, either.

Thirty years later,  not only is the agency still here—bearing a new name and expanded mission—but it is thriving. Though AIDS is not yet over and still provides us with plenty of challenges, there is at least a blueprint for diminishing its impact in New York State, with Gov. Cuomo’s “Bending the Curve” program and commitment to reducing new HIV transmissions to zero by 2020.

The organization (once known as ARCS, now as HVCS) can now respond to the initial risk factors that make people vulnerable to HIV and many diseases: poverty, disenfranchisement, substance use, mental health. We’ve expanded our programs and services beyond the one medical issue to hundreds more—though we remain steadfast in battling the HIV virus that started us down this path.

HIV is still around—but we’re still here, too. We now have nine offices—our latest opened in Lake Katrine last December. Our incredibly caring, talented, hard-working staff of 100 employees  work continuously on new initiatives and approaches to providing help where it is needed among the most vulnerable communities of the Hudson Valley.

100 of our most ardent supporters, staff and volunteers are gathering on Friday, September 23, 2016 at Ceola Manor in Jefferson Valley to raise a glass to toast our past and celebrate our bright future. But that is only a small fraction of those involved in this organization–and the celebration continues long past the confines of one party on one evening. Every time we get a client into stable housing–every time a client gets to a medical appointment–every time a young person comes in for a free HIV test–every time we get a thank-you note from a grateful client–and every time we get a donation–those are the tributes to HVCS that matter most. We wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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