BEAUMONT – After many memorable evenings of painting the town red, friends of the Triangle AIDS Network will “Paint the Town Silver” on Nov. 1 to celebrate TAN’s 25 years of service, while honoring the courage of persons living with HIV/AIDS and the care and commitment of TAN pioneers.

Festivities at the Beaumont Country Club will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a champagne reception, hors d’oeuvres and silent auction. The live auction begins at 7:15 p.m., with a buffet at 8 p.m. and continuation of the live auction as guests continue dining.
TAN serves more than 600 clients a year, said Executive Director Jennifer Scarborough. Since its inception in 1992, Paint the Town Red has netted more than $700,000. Now in its 25th year of serving the people of Southeast Texas, this silver anniversary is even more vital to the health and vitality of the community, Scarborough said.
“With the tightening of the economy and the shrinking of federal, state and local funding, agencies such as TAN need additional private funds from fundraisers, like Paint the Town Red, to financially support testing and support of services such as medical care, transportation, prescriptions, and housing assistance, as well as nutritional services.
“The generous support of our community makes a substantial difference in TAN’s ability to provide quality services to our clients, their families and the public,” said Jeff McManus, president of the TAN board of directors and founder/co-chair of Paint the Town Red.  “It is gratifying to see that so many of our patrons – as well as those who make contributions to the auctions and other aspects of the event – are opening their hearts on behalf of persons living with HIV/AIDS.”
TAN was incorporated in 1987 and, said charter board member Don Kelly, now of Houston, “The newly formed organization began in a garage apartment with one donated desk and a telephone to answer the increasing volume of questions arising from the community.”
As early as1982, Kelly recalled, the first group of men from Southeast Texas began to die quickly and mysteriously from an unknown condition. “The initial group of courageous men and women who, in spite of stigma and fear, came together to do something to address this growing epidemic,” Kelly said. “This group, among others, included a Catholic nun, a dedicated social worker, a nurse who later agreed to be our chairman, a local lawyer and human rights advocate and a licensed professional counselor. Any funding for the initial efforts came from these organizers.”
Kelly stressed the cooperation with the Beaumont City Health Department to assist TAN in its struggling efforts; the active support of churches in Southeast Texas, notably the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, which arranged the first AIDS hospice in Texas to be located in Orange; and the active support of Jefferson County Commissioners Court to fund early financial matching requirements.
 An important milestone for TAN was state funding under the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990. “The first years these funds rolled out, things began to change,” said Tam Kiehnhoff, client services director at TAN. Another milestone was the introduction of new and promising drugs, including Zidovudine, or AZT.
“In the first years, we were holding people’s hands as they died,” Kiehnhoff said. “With the new medications, we realized one of our most important jobs was medical care,” she said, adding, “Something that set us apart in good ways from agencies in larger urban areas was that we also stressed prevention and education as an essential part of our larger mission. We wanted to provide services that made life better and longer for people who were already infected, but we’ve also always worked hard to prevent new infections.
“Right now, it’s so different,” said Kiehnhoff. “ We see a clear line in our agency between people who are adherent to medication and those who are not. Those who are adherent are rarely dying, and if they are, it is usually to other diseases. Those who do not take their medications are still dying.”
In the mid 1990s, she said, “the medications had improved so much that we could almost entirely prevent HIV-positive babies’ being born to HIV-positive mothers. Also, the face of HIV has changed over the years. There are so many more women and more African-American women, where there used to be mostly white males.
“Everything changed. These medications really do save lives, and our focus became medical care,” said Kiehnhoff.: “There is still stigma, and there is still fear, and that is what is keeping people from taking their medications. And sometimes there is shame. That’s our challenge now. We want to make sure there are no barriers for people who want to be in medical care. For those who don’t, we try to figure out reasons they don’t and try to help them overcome these obstacles. It is still challenging. You find younger people coming up who aren’t really afraid of it, who don’t consider it a fatal disease and are gambling with their lives.”
Kelly said he continues to be inspired and uplifted when he thinks of TAN’s formative years.
“Some of these TAN pioneers are now deceased, but their shared sacrifices and
commitment shine brightly with the outstanding TAN organization we now have 25 years hence,” said Kelly, who was honored in 2000 with TAN’s annual Red Ribbon hero award. “May the love, care and devotion they imbued us with, continue to sustain us in meeting the challenges and opportunities of the future. And may the courage and suffering of our early AIDS clients be forever in our prayers and cherished memories.”
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A highlight of Paint the Town Silver will be presentation of the prestigious Red Ribbon Hero Award, honoring an individual for his or her contributions to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Previous Red Ribbon Hero recipients, beginning with the most recent, have been Barbara Warren, Ann Thompson, Paula “Torchy” Salter, Betty Greenberg, Debby Stasinopoulou, Bob Wortham, Steve Bean, Greg Busceme, Don Kelly, Archie Land, Louise Wood, Lynne Lokensgard, Ed Moore, Dr. Robert Pollard, Fred Angele, Sister Maria Geheb, Pat Papania, Jeff McManus and Dr. Frank Baker.
Auctions feature art, fashions, jewelry, furnishings, party packages and more. Celebrity centerpieces – a dazzling array of unique arrangements – will adorn the tables and be available for purchase. The gourmet buffet will tempt palates. And the Innovators will provide music for guests’ listening and dancing pleasure.
TAN’s  community-wide fundraiser had its start in 1992 at The Mandarin, formerly at Calder and Thomas Road, with the support of owners Bryan and Mary Lee.  In the benefit’s second year, the Friends of TAN adopted “Paint the Town Red” as the ongoing theme, with “Celebrate Hope” as the special theme for 1993. Attendance far exceeded expectations, and it became apparent the event would need larger quarters. The Art Museum of Southeast Texas provided a location in 1994 and, in 1995, Paint the Town Red moved to Beaumont Country Club, where it remains today.
Reservations for Paint the Town Red are $85 per person or $1,200 for “Dress Circle Seating” at a premium table for eight. Underwriting opportunities are also available. Call 409-832-8338, extension 225, for reservations.

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