Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, December 04, 2009

World AIDS Day in Johnson City


On December 1st many communities held services for World AIDS Day. Our community held A Candlelight, Prayer, and Reflection Service at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.

Between 70 and 80 were in attendance in Munsey's beautiful sanctuary that was decorated for Advent. Symbols of hope filled the space.


Pianist James Silver began the service by playing Robert Shumann's
Fantasy in C Major. It was magnificent.


John Collins sang a powerful rendition of Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Jeff Fyke and the Munsey Youth Ministry sang their hearts out by providing contemporary Christian music and the Squash Blossoms (Ashlee, Niki, and Sara) pulled our heartstrings with Hallelujah.

Rev. John Goah offered the prayer for the candlelight service and a challenge to all of us to be like Jeremiahs and Esthers speaking truth to power on behalf of compassion and justice.

I already posted the "sermonette" I delivered.

Blanca Taylor, the Ryan White Medical Care Manager, directed the service and presented three awards to people in our community who have done significant work with those living with HIV/AIDS.


Pictured from right to left, Rev. Donald Minor, Dr. Felix Sarubbi, Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing, and Blanca Taylor.


Here are the accomplishments of each award recipient as presented by Blanca Taylor.

Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing

This lady has demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteering in the HIV/AIDS network. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of South Florida in Tampa and received her Ph.D from the University of Georgia. She is a dedicated support group facilitator for POZ, a place where HIV positive individuals can go, knowing they are in a safe environment where they are accepted. She has been a “buddy” at the Tampa AIDS Network and a volunteer counselor for HIV positive individuals at the Positive Impact in Atlanta. She has also been a facilitator of the women’s HIV support group at the AIDS Survival Project and is a board member and former president of the HIV Network. Her accomplishments are many and I have highlighted only a few. This award is being presented to Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing.

Donald L. Minor

This young man will be 61 years old on the 21st of this month. In 1985, while having oral surgery, he received several blood product transfusions. Unfortunately, proper testing was not being performed at that time and he became infected with HIV. Already being an advocate for persons living with Hemophilia, he became involved in the issues surrounding HIV. After having his first opportunistic infection in 1991, he became a public advocate for those infected and living with HIV. He was one of the first members of the Ryan White Consortium and a founding member of the Tennessee Association of People with AIDS. He speaks about AIDS to an average of 250,000 persons per year. He has addressed congressional committees in Washington DC. Currently, he is employed by CVS/Caremark as a field service rep and is Vice-President of the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness, being actively involved in providing housing to person with AIDS through his grant work. His prior awards are too numerous to mention. He is a musician and has recorded several CDs, the last one dedicated to those impacted by AIDS. He is a licensed minister and has been involved in a very unexpected need—the service of conducting over 600 funerals for person who have died with AIDS. He now serves as a Christian Counselor at the Clark Street Baptist Church and serves on the Johnson City/Washington County Ministerial Fellowship as Vice-President. I humbly introduce to you our next award winner, Donald L. Minor.

Felix Sarubbi, MD

I am so honored to present our final award this evening. I placed this person last on the agenda because I feel he is one of the most important individuals that have committed themselves to the HIV/AIDS community. He served as Interim Chair for the Department of Internal Medicine. This physician services on many ETSU committees and is a member of the university AIDS Advisory Panel. He also serves on the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Planning Committee and served on the search committee for the present dean of the medical school. More importantly to all of us, he has tirelessly given his time to maintain the health of people living with HIV. His mission began in 1981 when he saw one of the first HIV patients. He became Professor of Medicine with the Department of Internal Medicine, in 1988. Since that time, he has taught many medical students, residents and fellows through the Department of Infectious Diseases. In 2000, the ETSU College of Medicine was designated as a Centers of Excellence for AIDS Care and this physician is very deserving of the directorship. Under his leadership, he coordinates a comprehensive approach to AIDS and HIV treatment. Throughout the years, he has dedicated himself to provide the highest quality of treatment and care for his patients. I am pleased to present to you, Dr. Felix Sarubbi.

The Johnson City Press reported on the work of ETSU students who were instrumental in raising awareness on campus.

Blanca Taylor remembered to acknowledge the work of these students, Evan Baker, Stephanie Sharrett, and Sheena Stinnett by writing letters of commendation on their behalf to several university department chairs.

Paul Baggett, Ph.D.
PO Box 70645
ETSU College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Social Work
Johnson City, TN 37614

Re: Evan Baker
Stephanie Sharrett
Sheena Stinnett

Dear Dr. Baggett:

I would like to personally commend these students on their performance during the organization and execution of the planning for the World AIDS Day Program. They are important members of the team and their contributions are numerous.

Today at noon, they are volunteering to participate during the World AIDS Day activities at the Johnson City Mall. They will assist Hope of Tennessee in passing out educational materials. Tonight, the second candlelight reflection service will be held at Munsey Memorial Methodist Church and these students will be actively involved with the service.

So many times, we forget to pat individuals on the back when they do an exceptional job. I am very glad that Evan, Stephanie and Sheena chose to take on this mission as their class project. They have shown compassion and understanding for the cause of HIV/AIDS in the Tri-Cities area and have truly been team players. I am sure these attributes will travel them in all their future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Blanca Taylor, RN
Ryan White Medical Care Manager
Heal the world.
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