Alzheimer’s Association, Triangle AIDS Network team up for post-hurricane benefit Oct. 31

The Alzheimer’s Association of Southeast Texas and Triangle AIDS Network are teaming up to bridge the gap in resources created by Hurricane Ike.

To help maintain essential services to their respective clients, two board members of the organizations stepped forward to host a Halloween party and benefit – complete with a costume contest, entertainment, a barbecue and auctions – from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. 

“Exorcising Ike: A Bewitching Blast on Broadway” is the theme of the event, which will be at 2495 Broadway at Ninth Street in Beaumont, the law offices of Susan J. Oliver and Lynn M. Bencowitz, hosts for the fund-raiser. Oliver is a member of the TAN advisory board, while Bencowitz serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association. The two also hosted a benefit for the two groups after Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Because of the storm, TAN was forced to cancel Paint the Town Red, and the Alzheimer’s Association canceled the gala and auction that was to precede its Memory Walk.

“Many thanks to Lynn Bencowitz and Susan Oliver for their generous offer to host this event to benefit Alzheimer’s/AIDS,” said Debra Brozak, Southeast Texas regional coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association. “We have all suffered from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike, but the need for public awareness and continued services to our community for both organizations has never been greater.”

The evening will feature barbecue with all the trimmings, a costume contest with prizes, live entertainment and auctions. Refreshments will be available at a cash bar. KFDM-TV news anchor Bill Leger will serve as master of ceremonies and auctioneer.

Tickets are $20 per person and available at the door or from board and staff members of the Alzheimer’s Association and Triangle AIDS Network. For additional information, call (409) 832-8338.

“Hurricane Ike made a dramatic impact on these two organizations, whose resources have been diminished because of the storm,” said Oliver and Bencowitz. “We invite the people of Southeast Texas to help bridge the gap on behalf of their respective clients.”

Ike’s immediate damage to TAN operations had some ongoing effects, Brooks said. “All three of TAN’s vans lost windows, and, unfortunately, the bulk of the cost to replace them was not covered by insurance. Although the staff was persistent in providing assistance to the community, TAN offices were without power for 12 days, and the loss of work time and the necessity to work by sunlight and cell phones disrupted the flow of assistance to the many clients who were looking for medical care, referrals and aid in receiving medications.”

Brooks added: “Hurricane Ike made all of us aware of our dependence on other people and places in a time of crisis: the need for electricity, phones, food – all of this was annoying to us who do not have to face this type of wait on a regular basis. But the clients face this wait every day of their lives. They wait for medical care so they can feel better; they wait through long lines of bureaucracy so they can get answers to questions. And, in many cases, they wait for help from others who recognize their illness and pain.

“Hurricane Ike gave us an opportunity to empathize with others who face long lines of waiting and realize a terrible sense of grief and loss on a regular basis,” Brooks said. “This fund-raiser gives us the opportunity to recognize the impact of this hurricane on everyone in our area and in Galveston, especially to recognize that the damage to the University of Texas Medical Branch greatly impacts us because so many of our indigent are dependent on the medical care they were receiving there.”

The Alzheimer’s Association of Southeast Texas receives private support from donations, memorials and bequests and from fund-raisers including a golf tournament, Memory Walk and Education Conference.

“We are still having the walk, but every year before the walk, we have a kick-off party. Last year, we upscaled it into a kick-off gala, and, this year, we were planning to add an auction,” Brozak said.

“We had to cancel that event due to the hurricane. ‘Exorcising Ike’ will help us provide funds for the programs and services we offer the community.

“Many Alzheimer’s patients are displaced, and families are becoming care-givers,” Brozak said. “When people suffering from dementia have a big change in their routine, their symptoms often heighten, and their families need information and support.”

Services the association makes available include : education and training, safe return, care counseling, support groups, information and referral, advocacy, research and a 24-hour helpline.

TAN relies on the annual fall fund-raiser. Paint the Town Red, to garner the major part of its community support, Brooks said. “In a time of decreasing grant monies for social services and especially when less emphasis is being placed on the issue of AIDS, it is imperative to reach out to the local community for help. The increase in HIV and STD infections is a primary concern that cannot be overlooked during a disaster, especially when the number of people at risk may not realize the danger as they focus on the more immediate needs of housing, food and care for their families.”