National HIV Testing Day

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. A few months ago Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team added STI, HIV, and Hepatitis C testing and screening to the services available for Victory Programs’ clients and members of the community. The services compliment the education and navigation work the team was already doing around harm reduction and connections to care. Now, when a participant completes a workshop on safer sex, harm reduction in the context of drug use or other risky behavior, or comes to the realization through peer support that they would benefit from testing, a member of the Mobile Prevention Team can offer the service immediately in a safe, non-threatening environment rather than referring the individual out to a primary care physician or medical institution.

“We are mobile, so we are able to provide access to clients in programs as soon as they decide they are ready to be tested,” shares Richard Baker, Program Director for the Mobile Prevention Team. “This reduces barriers to care and results in more of our clients following through and actually getting tested.”

Screening is a key component of prevention work, if an individual does not know they are infected with an STI, HIV, or Hepatitis C they may not take the proper precautions to avoid passing the infection on to others. Early detection is also critical for individuals to receive proper treatment for the best health outcomes.

“Adding screening to our services allows us to provide wraparound services,” explains Richard. “It is easy for the people we work with to put education into practice, they don’t have to take any additional steps.”

You can find out more about our Mobile Prevention Team and the other services they offer at 617-927-0836

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Surviving Pioneers of the HIV Epidemic Recognition Event

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Photo of Tez Anderson with Rob Q and Don HOn Wednesday, June 6, the Victory Programs’ Boston Living Center was packed with attendees for SPHERE “Surviving Pioneers of the HIV Epidemic Recognition Event,” an evening featuring discussion groups, breakout sessions and a panel that brought together consumers and providers to reflect on the impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic has had on those who know it best, the early pioneers who have lived with and/or worked to treat the disease since it was first discovered.

The event opened with a series of breakout sessions including “Heart Disease and the Increased Risk for those living with HIV” led by Sara E. Looby, Ph.D., ANP-BC, FAAN and Kathleen Fitch, MSN, FNP; “Epidemiological Trends in Aging and HIV Nationally and in Massachusetts” led by Dawn Fukuda, Sc.M. and “AIDS Survivor Syndrome Analysis and Discussion” led by Tez Anderson, longtime survivor and founder of “Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome).”Tez Anderson with Ed Crane at SPHERE

After the breakout sessions, attendees enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by the Boston Living Center’s talented Meals and Nutrition staff, followed by remarks from Boston Living Center Program Director Larry Day; Community Advocate Ed Crane; and Dawn Fukuda, Sc.M. The highlight of the evening was the panel discussion comprised of health care panelists Tez Anderson; Marshall Forstein, M.D.; Howard Libman, M.D.; community panelists Don H. and Leah W.; and moderated by Emerson Miller, B.A.

After the event, long-term survivor and Boston Living Center member Rob Q. shared why he felt the increased attention on long-term survivors is critical:

“We, long-term survivors (LTS), are a forgotten part of the HIV/AIDS community. We have to be bold and we need to be more visible. This means ensuring LTS are included in research studies and planning discussions about the emerging needs of our population. HIV prevention and care is not just about preventing new infections and achieving viral suppression. It’s about creating health equity for everyone, including long-term survivors. In my opinion, it is time to update the HIV Treatment Cascade beyond viral suppression and broaden the definition of HIV prevention to include co-morbidity risk assessment and treatment.”



Please consider supporting the Boston Living Center and services for HIV/AIDS survivors here. Thank you!

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2018 Run for Recovery

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Guest Blog: Why Run?

By Carmen Thurston, Substance Use Disorder Clinician, Victory Programs’ Women’s Hope

The Boston Bulldogs 5k Run for Recovery has had me asking this question a lot lately. Why run? It’s sweaty and hot, hard to breathe, leaves me achy and sore. Training is hard, and when I’m not training I don’t have much motivation. I’m slow. Hungry, thirsty, busy, hot, cold, tired. I can come up with a million reasons not to run. So why do it?

Sunday, May 20, 2018, was one of the reasons why I run. I was up at 6:00 in the morning, collected 10 committed ladies from Women’s Hope by 7:30, and was at the start line by 8:00 greeting other runners from across Victory Programs’ recovery programs. I watched while the field around us filled with more than 500 registered runners and walkers in recovery, and those who love them. 30 sponsors had set up tables, giving out organic fruit and chocolate before the race, coconut water after, and encouragement throughout. 60 volunteers got us all registered, directed us around the 3-loop course, and cheered us on when we were tired. I ran that day because the sheer number of people who believe in the cause we at Victory Programs work for everyday was inspiring.

In this crowd, I was not worried about those runners still early in recovery. This was a safe space for people in recovery to live an active and healthy new version of life. Our runners were part of a larger movement, a supportive group who believe in each other. People were friendly, non-judgmental, welcoming.  I ran because this is the kind of world I believe in creating.

While we were running, I saw signs over and over again. “I’m running for Brian, RIP.” “I’m running for Dante.” “I’m running for mom.” Men, women, and children wore the names of people they’d lost to substance use disorder. Every person who showed up that day has a friend, a child, a parent, a sibling, or a partner who they’ve lost. Many have come to the brink of death themselves. I ran to honor my own dead, and others who’ve died of addiction.

And after the race, I cheered for the look of pride on those who ran’s faces. Some I knew well, others I just met that day. They were all brave enough to show up in Victory colors, cheer for each other, and cross the finish line. I was proud to run with them.

Photos of Victory Programs Staff and Supporters at the 2018 Run for Recovery:
2018 Run for Recovery

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Starting Small and Making it Big

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

The Cummings Foundation has been a major contributor to Victory Programs’ success by offering significant financial support for vital services..  They first supported our Boston Living Center Meals and Medical Case Management Services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS with a two year grant in FY2014.  Their latest grant in FY2017 supported our renovations of two facilities to establish two new recovery programs for women, enabling us to respond to both the tragic closing of our recovery home in 2014 when Boston Harbor’s Long Island was ordered evacuated, and the growing surge in opioid addiction and deaths across Massachusetts.

Bill Cummings story and his philanthropic focus has tremendously benefitted Victory Programs, but it can also benefit anyone who is committed to improving our society. We highly recommend that you read Bill Cummings’ memoir Starting Small and Making It Big. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the remarkable philanthropic efforts of the Cummings Foundation. Below is a book review on this memoir!

STARTING SMALL AND MAKING IT BIG

An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist

Review by Heather Lauten, Esq.

Today’s corporate temperament prizes decisions made on the basis of a simple opportunistic edict: do what will produce the greatest revenue while consuming the fewest resources. There’s nothing wrong with that thinking, per se, but there’s a vital piece missing from those broad strokes: doing what’s right.

This value system (not to mention our current political discourse) has clouded the confluence between opportunity and opportunism, promoting thinking in which the latter is the province of the prosperous and the former describes a concept that people feel has escaped them. What remains is a society in which too many believe they’re helpless to effect change, compelling children to march for their lives in Washington in the face of public apathy, and allowing the civic void to be filled by those who mask intolerance and ignorance by calling it innovation.

In his new memoir, “Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” Bill Cummings offers a welcome rejoinder to this diminished thinking, showing us not only that hard work and diligence can lead to success but also that success can foment fundamental justice and genuine structural change along the way.

When Cummings first went into business for himself, negotiating a good deal to purchase a hundred-year-old beverage enterprise in 1964, his dad gave him some advice about opportunity that stuck with him: “The most important thing about being lucky,” he said, “is recognizing good luck when it comes along, and then taking advantage of it. Life is mostly what we make of the opportunities that come our way.”

“Starting Small” details Cummings’ story of how, with a practical sensibility and belief in himself and others, along with an eye for making his own luck, he worked his way from conventional working-class beginnings to founding a real estate company with a portfolio of more than 11 million square feet of debt-free space in his totally unleveraged style.

What makes Cummings’ self-made-man narrative unique, and worthy of attention, though, is the rest of the story. With the kind of detailed guidance that budding entrepreneurs will earmark for reference, and the charming conversational tone of a man who enjoys telling a tale, Cummings’ book describes not only the life he and his wife, Joyce, have created by making the most of the opportunities that have come their way, but also how they have become philanthropists on a scale few accomplish, having already given more than a billion dollars to charitable causes.

Members of the Giving Pledge, established by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, Cummings attributes his and Joyce’s extraordinary dedication to giving back to their community-to institutions large and, mostly, small-to what he describes as their “belief in the goodness of all humanity.”

That strong-held belief, Cummings illustrates from the beginning of “Starting Small,” comes from his and Joyce’s strong family backgrounds, and life-long association with like-minded people who shared their values and supported their endeavors, but it’s also clear that Cummings genuinely likes people and has the gift to recognize their best qualities.

“At Cummings Properties, one of our major goals is to find out what good employees do best and then keep them busy doing it,” Cummings writes. In “Starting Small,” Cummings paints convivial portraits of his colleagues, many of whom have long tenures with his company, the average length of service for the 360-person firm being more than 11 years.

On the occasion of one colleague’s 40th anniversary of service with the company, Cummings describes how equipment operator George Holland received not only an engraved rocking chair celebrating the milestone, but was shocked to be handed the keys to the company’s first brand-new backhoe, which had his name painted prominently on the door.

Other stories are tender, and at the heart of the book is a tragedy, when Cummings’ protege, 41-year-old Jamie McKeown, was stricken by a fatal heart attack. Cummings’ account of his more than 17 years spent mentoring Jamie, and his profound pleasure in having cultivated a person who cared as much about improving his community as he did about growing a company, explains how the loss served as a sort of turning point for Cummings’ altruistic views.

In describing Jamie at his funeral service, Cummings said “no man I have ever met cared more about doing the right thing,” and that Jamie “led by example.” Cummings writes, “Although Joyce and I had formed Cummings Foundation 10 years before Jamie died, his death was a stark reminder to me that if she and I were to do meaningful good things, together with the foundation, we really needed to get started.”

Doing the right thing, leading by example, and incorporating charitable giving into every aspect of his immensely successful business is how Bill Cummings has honored Jamie and others who have impacted his and Joyce’s thinking, some on a grand scale, and many, many others on a small, local level. In some ways, “Starting Small” is a textbook on how-and why-to give, as individuals, and, importantly, as an integral part of the corporate culture.

A single paperback can be purchased online via Amazon.com and Cummings.com/book for $16.95. Options for discounted bulk purchases – three paperbacks for $40 or a case of 26 books for $300 – can be found at Cummings.com/book. All books are shipped free of charge. Many readers have raved about the book for use as graduation gifts.

Ms. Lauten, an attorney, is a member of the Cummings Properties team.

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Liberty Mutual Steps Up to Volunteer at ReVision Urban Farm

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

For the past few months things have been incredibly busy at ReVision Urban Farm as staff work to recontour the soil and prepare for the upcoming growing season. Luckily, thanks to large groups of volunteers from Liberty Mutual as part of Liberty’s annual “Serve with Liberty” community service program for their staff during the first two weeks of May, the Farm has made significant progress!

Liberty Mutual Volunteers at ReVision Urban Farm

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