Caring Communities had two client social gatherings for the holiday season. One was held on Saturday, December 17th at our Berwick office and allowed our clients to mingle, enjoy some food and watch a holiday movie together.
The second gathering was in conjunction with AIDS Resource at their office in Williamsport on Wednesday, December 21st. Clients from both agencies met, played some fun board games and enjoyed dinner together along with staff members from our agency and AIDS Resource.
“The client gatherings are important events for our clients, as it allows them to socialize and meet other folks with HIV in a safe, confidential environment and gives them opportunities to build peer support networks,” said Celeste Straub, Client Services Manager.
Cindy Rupp, our Retention Coordinator who also attended the gathering, said, “The client gatherings were a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know the clients who attended in a relaxed setting. I got to know them as people, not just clients, and that was helpful in my understanding of their needs and priorities. I only hope that more clients will attend going forward as those who attended really seemed to feel empowered and less alone spending time talking and comparing experiences with peers.”
Our agency also held picnics for clients in the Fall and plan to continue to host social gatherings once per season.
“We try to host the events at different venues throughout our service area, since we are so geographically diverse, in the hopes that it better enables clients with limited access to transportation to attend at least one gathering a year,” Straub said.
Jake Beach, a case manager with Caring Communities, attended both the Fall and holiday gatherings.
Beach said, “It’s really nice to see clients gathered in a setting that has little to no relevance to their status. It’s good for us as an agency to see them gathered while not thinking about their status, and it’s good for them to gather with others while not thinking about their status. It’s very important for people who are positive, as well as those who aren’t, to see them in such settings to help normalize the condition.”
“Stigma isn’t just held by those outside of a certain demographic, and getting together for a picnic or to celebrate a holiday is a great way to show others, and themselves, that this virus doesn’t control their lives, and in fact, has little bearing on who they are and what they do,” Beach said.