Thank you to everyone that attended Toros y Tapas, The Octopus Club’s summer fundraiser celebrating Spain’s Running of the Bulls. Thanks to the generous efforts of attendees and donors, the second-annual event raised $7,100 for the emergency fund at AIDS Services of Austin!
“We’re so proud to have put on another successful Toros y Tapas event,” said event organizer Jay Billig. “The generosity of our friends and neighbors, our hosts Michael and Stephen, and the friends of the Octopus Club, is incredible. We’re looking forward to another great event next year!”
Since 2002, Jay had organized the Octopus Club’s event Tapasgiving, previously held each November, which transformed last year to Toros y Tapas.
Guests wore white, and as they entered the beautiful Northwest Hills home of Michael Rodriguez and Steven Watkins, each received a red silk sash. Most tied around their waste or their neck like the fleet footed Spaniards running from the bulls, but of course some wrapped them round their heads like turbans and some draped across their chests and dreamed of being “Miss Pamplona.” The soundtrack for the evening was dance music and, of course, Spanish ballads in addition to the sight of handsome Spanish men fleeing for their lives from a horde of furious bulls!
About twenty hosts created dozens of tapas and desserts for guests to graze on as they stood around the pool. Blonde Sparkling Sangria made with champagne and a cocktail called Sangre de Toro, a mix of vodka, cranberry, lime, and pureed fresh raspberries were dipped from giant glass barrels. These were accompanied by Malbecs, Riojas, Carmeneres, and Torrontes wines making the choice of beverage the only thing difficult in a wonderful evening.
A big thank you to our Toros y Tapas hosts Michael Rodriguez and Stephen Watkins, as well as to our sponsors: Mauricio Carranza, Charley Schumate, Jay Billig, Jeffrey Jungbauer, Billy Brown, Lew Aldridge, Jim Lommori, Candis Guidry, Sue Campion, Matthew Rogovein, Kathy Simon, Ahmed Fathalla, Bob Dailey, Doug Plummer, Barry Izsak, Dan Slutsky, Rick Luisi, Erik Wilson, Larry Davis, Steve Paris, Rick Astray-Caneda, Rob Giardinelli, and Kevin McAfee.
The Octopus Club, founded in 1989, is a grassroots all-volunteer organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the Paul Kirby Emergency Fund at ASA through annual events and parties. The Fund provides financial assistance to individuals infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS. Services paid for by the Fund include assistance with food, housing, medical care, and transportation.
President Obama’s administration has updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the first time since its introduction in 2010. Additions have been made according to the accomplishments and lessons learned during the Strategy’s first five years. The new additions include a focus on the following activities:
Once again, ASA has been on the forefront of HIV prevention, working towards these goals through our 12 major programs. Our Testing and Linkage to Care program has provided HIV testing services, counseling, and connection to community resources in Central Texas for decades. Last year alone, ASA conducted more than 1,600 HIV tests free of charge. Supporting people living with HIV to get comprehensive care is also a key priority at ASA, with many of our programs tailored to make sure that clients find the best health resources suited for them and have complicating factors (such as good nutrition and oral healthcare) taken care of in order to achieve adequate viral suppression.
Of the four additions, access to PrEP has been a major concern here at ASA. While the pill offers great protection against contracting HIV, it is expensive, and many doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the medication (Truvada) to people who do not have HIV. Here at ASA, our testing staff work with anyone at risk to refer them to a doctor where they can get a prescription. Our CLEAR Program also gives information to those interested about PrEP services.
The Strategy’s four original goals, each of which is priority here at ASA as well, remain unchanged. Great progress had been made toward achieving two of the goals here in Austin— reducing new HIV infections, and increasing access to care—thanks to ASA’s programs and services. Our Condom Distribution Network is among the favorite preventative efforts in the community, making many volunteers eager to donate their time at our office assembling these packs. Increasing access to care is targeted by our case managers, who assist clients in accessing services such as health insurance, housing, employment, transportation, legal and financial assistance, and many more. ASA has helped thousands of Austinites in all aspects of HIV prevention and treatment every year since 1987.
The other two core goals – reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities, and achieving a more coordinated national response- have also become a priority at ASA over the years. Our partnerships with St. Davis Hospitals, the David Powell Clinic, the Q Austin, and the Women Rising Project have in particular enabled us to provide social support, education, and testing services to a broader spectrum of individuals.
The Strategy update acknowledges that today there are still 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV and notes that improvements need to be made in the following areas: awareness of status, linkage to care, engagement in care, and viral suppression. In order to assure successful implementation across the nation of the new priorities set and make improvements to the areas noted, a Federal Action Plan will be released in December.
Look for more information about ASA’s response to the Federal Action Plan in future postings.
Click here to view the complete National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020.
After five years of offering help to people recently released from incarceration, Project Fresh Start has finally come to a close.
Thanks to a grant from the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AIDS Services of Austin, in collaboration with META Inc, aimed to accomplish three goals with the implementation of Project Fresh Start:
We are proud to say that the program was a complete success in each of these categories!
Priority populations for this program included African-American and Latino men and women residing in Travis County. Noting the great potential for self-improvement, Project Fresh Start sought to help these underestimated individuals take charge of their own health. In total, 215 individuals enrolled in the program.
Project Fresh Start offered several services, including assessment of risky activity, HIV testing and linkage to other support services, education for the community about substance abuse and HIV risk, and distribution of risk-reduction kits (condom packs, safer smoke kits, and bleach and water kits.) All of these services greatly helped Project Fresh Start participants evaluate their habits and make changes that improved their mental and bodily health. However, the most liked and successful service was, without a doubt, the one-on-one and group counseling sessions.
Project Fresh Start participants reported feeling accepted by their counseling group, feeling safe to talk openly about confidential and sensitive topics related to substance use and HIV, and feeling supported and empowered to share advice and feedback to other group members. Participants were so happy with Project Fresh Start that 99% said they would recommend the program to a friend.
Involvement in the program resulted in drug and alcohol relapse prevention, as well as significant decreases in stress and depression. HIV knowledge and motivation to change risky habits skyrocketed. Although statistical improvements were great to see, the real success of the program for us lay in the feelings of self-empowerment reported by the participants. These were among the many positive responses we got during our 2014 survey:
“This place helped me when I got out of prison and even gave me hope.”
“The staff is very caring and that’s what I loved the most, more than anything; they always made sure we were ok.”
“I honestly can say that Fresh Start has put me on the path to obtain success.”
Project Fresh Start was a tremendous undertaking and an amazing team effort. ASA is proud to say Project Fresh Start made a difference.
Click here to learn about other great programs offered by ASA.
Two weeks ago, we were lucky to have a group of Americorps volunteers from Keep Austin Housed on site to help with making condom packets. Our new Volunteer Manager, Megan Satterfield, went to extra lengths to make sure they felt welcome (and had lots of sandwiches and snacks to tide them over).
“We were looking for projects that could accommodate a group as big as us,” Lori Warren, group supervisor, explains. Several of the volunteers in the group had worked with ASA before, and as Megan was a long-time acquaintance, Lori reached out to see if ASA would have room for the group. As luck would have, ASA recently lost a regular volunteer group, so Megan was able to put the group straight to work making condom packs.
All fifteen members of the group work with low-income people through Keep Austin Housed, the Americorps branch of FrontSteps. “They recognize the importance of this kind of service and how important it is to volunteer,” Lori says. “They have to do a service project [as part of the Americorps program], so they chose to do this.”
As the volunteers worked to stuff flyers, condoms, lube, and contact information into small Ziploc bags, they listened to music and joked around with each other. “It’s great that they are able to have to so much fun at the same time as they are giving back,” Lori says. “ASA has been super hospitable. It’s great to create these community partnerships through volunteering.
“It’s important that we foster a sense of volunteerism in our members, and we’re glad that we could work with you to do that.”
Congratulations to INK on another successful event! The young professional group, which is dedicated to promoting safe sex practices and raising money for the emergency fund at AIDS Services of Austin, raised more than $4,000 at their second-annual brunch, held June 14.
INK was founded last year to educate Austin’s diverse population of young people about the Paul Kirby Emergency Fund at ASA, provide young people with an economically viable way to contribute to the Fund, and to promote safe sex. Because last year’s brunch was so successful, this year, INK doubled the number of tickets available.
More than 100 people enjoyed the finest accommodations provided by one of Austin’s premier venues – The Hummingbird House. While there, they enjoyed a custom menu of local, organic brunch goodies provided by local Executive Chef Zack Teegardin of Perry’s Steakhouse, and his sidekick The Austin Optimist Allie Teegardin. The event also featured a Colorado High Vodka Bloody Mary bar, mimosas, fair trade organic coffee, and, of course, great times with friends, old and new. View more pictures here.
A big thanks to the brunch’s other sponsors: The event featured food donated by Morehart Farm, Gray Gardens, and Red Beard Brothers. Additional sponsorship by the always generous Mr. Lew Aldridge and Alori Properties. The mimosa and Bloody Mary bar was made possible by Savrick, Schumann, Johnson, McGarr, Kaminski, & Shirley, LLP, and Oilcan Harry’s.
INK is a spinoff of the Octopus Club, a grassroots all-volunteer organization dedicated to raising funds for and awareness of the Paul Kirby Fund through annual events and parties. In its first year, INK was a finalist for the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce Fave Local Non-Profit recognition. INK is excited to continue the Octopus Club’s strong tradition of fundraising by introducing the Fund to Austin’s next generation of leaders and philanthropists.
Since its inception in 1993, ASA’s Red Ribbon Dinner series has raised more than $400,000 for Central Texans affected by HIV and AIDS. Our newest partner restaurant, Fork & Vine, recognizes the importance of ASA’s mission and proudly supports our work. Heather Powell, Fork and Vine’s Special Event and Social Media Manager, explains, “The topic needs to stay relevant. People don’t always see it as an issue, especially because we are one of the healthiest cities in the nation. We need to keep reminding people that the fight is far from over. More young people are being affected than ever before, so we must do our part in raising that new generation that will be vocal and fight for the cause.”
Fork & Vine specializes in exceptional food and wine pairings. The integrity of the wine is central, and the food is derived organically from its flavor. “The wine always comes first for us,” Heather says. “We have a world class sommelier and a fantastic kitchen crew. We work hard to find the right balance and harmony between the food and the wine.”
The restaurant is a perfect mix of contemporary and classic style, featuring a patio designed by Austin artisans as well as gorgeous wood and glass fixtures. “It’s a relaxed but refined space,” Heather describes. “We have a great space, very warm and inviting.”
Executive Chef & owner Camden Stuerzenberger’s eclectic American style finds inspiration in Austin’s melting pot cuisine and redefines it. “The [restaurant] industry today is about originality, and that’s what I strive for,” Camden explains. “Our food is not just about the union between great ingredients and wine, but also between people.”
For this month’s Red Ribbon Dinner theme, Camden has planned a smokehouse twist for the five course custom menu and pairings. Locally sourced bison ribeye and grilled Fredericksburg peaches are just two components of the delicious offerings. The wines have been exquisitely paired to complement the ingredients, as Fork & Vine holds a portfolio of over 250 labels.
“At Fork & Vine we love having people enjoy our creations, and experience our food and wine in an inviting atmosphere. That is really the focus of the restaurant,” Heather says. “Our staff is gracious, knowledgeable, and seeks to make everyone’s experience one to remember. Come by and join us for a glass of wine. You won’t regret it.”
Try something new. Try something different.
Join AIDS Services of Austin and Fork & Vine on Monday, July 13 for the 4th installment of ASA’s 2015 Red Ribbon Dinner Series at Fork & Vine, 3010 W Anderson Ln. Austin, TX, 78757.