Celebrating Ourselves and One Another

HOLIDAY BLOG

 By: Tyree Sanders

 

Hello Everyone! My name is Tyree Sanders and I am the new HIV/ STI Test Counselor, CTR Coordinator for Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center, GCMC. Since coming on board at GCMC, things have certainly been a whirlwind when it comes to becoming acclimated with the GCMC family. Between meeting new staff members, the Core Group members, attending social events, preparing for a visit from the CDC and laying out the plans for new testing hours and future events at the center; I sure have had my plate full!

This is not my first rodeo with GCMC / ARC. Back in 2011-2012 I served as a volunteer for ARC and was a Core Group member for GCMC. I left to fully commit myself to working as a Certified Pharmacy Technician, CPhT, in various settings. When the job opportunity to work at GCMC as the HIV Test Counselor was presented, I made sure that it wouldn’t pass me by. As the HIV Test counselor I’ll be responsible for implementing innovative ways to attract GCMC’s targeted demographic (MSM of color between the ages 13-29) through our doors for testing with the ultimate goal of retention for the Mpowerment program and / or the CRCS program. I am not the only new face walking about the GCMC hallways. Andrew Delollo is our new CRCS Coordinator. He just moved to Columbus, OH from New York where he worked as a prevention specialist with the MSM community. Andrew will be running the CRCS program for MSM of color ages 13-29. Comprehensive risk counseling and Services (CRCS) focuses on risk reduction surrounding HIV and STIs, and is a great way to learn more about how to keep yourself safe while having fun. Andrew’s Contact information is: (614) 926-4135 andrewdelollo@arcohio.org and my contact information is: (614) 926-4132 tyreesanders@arcohio.org .

GCMC’s core group members are a group of vibrant and colorful young men who all come from various backgrounds. The core group members are the face of GCMC and they collectively perpetuate GCMC’s Mission & Vision . I’ve learned a lot from my interactions with them. Andrew and I both look forward to working with them as GCMC grows! Back in October, GCMC hosted a Halloween party and it turned out to be a hit! The Halloween party consisted of food, music, games, and a raffle at the end of the night!

 

In November GCMC hosted a holiday potluck, full of home cooked meals, eggnog, and sweet treats that would make you smack your mama! Also in November, GCMC went on a bowling excursion and the competition was fierce! The event took place at Star Lanes Polaris ! Another thing that was special about this outing is that Veronica from the CDC accompanied us and got the opportunity to interact with the Core Group members and see firsthand how we do things here in Columbus!

Looking ahead in the immediate and not so distant future, GCMC has a lot of changes going on and events happening. As of December 8th 2014, GCMC will be offering HIV / STI testing Monday-Thursday from 11am-8pm. So spread the word! December 26th 2014 will be the Holiday Party from 6pm-9pm, be sure to bring a friend! Thursday December 18th from 7pm-9pm will be our last Core Group meeting of the year. Core Group members make sure you all come ready with creative ideas and ready to plan and make 2015 the best year yet! On Thursday January 29th from 6pm-8pm will be GCMC’s 2015 open. The purpose of this event is to let the community know of the services that we provide and to introduce our now complete staff! Tuesday February 10th from 6pm-8pm will be when GCMC recognizes National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day, NBHAAD. Last few months have been extremely eye-opening and rewarding. 2015 will be the best year yet at GCMC!

Growing Pains: Reflections on My First Four Months

The Core Group’s recent success at hosting a community wide Skate Party at the end of September caused me to reflect upon my first four months at Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center.  During this short period, the Center faced a number of challenges due to staff and programmatic changes.  Despite these obstacles, I remain humbled by the relationships I’ve formed with the Core Group members, the expertise of the new staff, the potential for GCMC’s growth in the community and the perseverance displayed by the program’s participants.

Walking through GCMC’s doors was slightly intimidating for me!  I couldn’t help but wonder, what the heck are these guys going to think about this white, heterosexual female who is stepping into their space, their program and their personal lives?  I should have considered the stigma each young man had encountered in his own life.  How often had each one of them walked into a public venue and felt out of place or misunderstood?  Perhaps it is these unique experiences which have led them to not only accept me, but often seek me out for advice, help with one of life’s challenges or just to strike up a quick conversation.  (How lucky am I?)

Once I’d overcome my initial fears of being accepted by the program participants, my staff resigned.  In fact, the first employee resigned before my position started!  Then one-by-one each staff member resigned.  Here I was a new Program Manager with no one to manage!  The fear and uncertainty only worsened when the Core Group discovered their trusted mentors were resigning to move to other agencies in the community.

One thing I’ve learned from my short time in this role is that when one door closes, another opens.  A month later, I connected to an experienced Mpowerment Coordinator.  Not only was he excited to introduce new programs and fresh perspectives, but I’ve really seen a renewed sense of inspiration and motivation in the Core Group.  It would have been effortless to quit the program, to complain about staffing shortages or give up on relationships, but the guys have not only held on, they’ve become even more involved in event planning, hosting and the production of new, creative ideas for the Center.

Productivity is contagious!  Former Core Group members have rejoined.  GCMC staff continues to increase and strengthen community connections.  After three months of steady struggles,  I’m happy to say we are all on the same personal and programmatic page.   Overall, I am reminded that Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center embodies the program participants: given hardship they overcome adverse circumstances and develop into even wiser, stronger men.

What If…..?

Sometimes  we  get  so caught in all or  our  duties and roles in the  world we  forget to  dream or  entertain those  WHAT IF QUESTIONS? So for a few minutes  lets entertain those what if questions!!!

 

What if you could be any animal or insect what would you be and why?

I would be a butterfly because it represents all that I hope to be. I want to continue to grow, and blossom into the woman God has intended for me to be.  I hope to travel and explore the world as well!

What if you could be any shoe what would you be?

I would  be  an open  toed heal because it nice  outside  and I would be able to enjoy  the cool breeze  and  give myself some  height.

 

Feel  free to join in and  share your  dream  goals  and  aspirations and  those  What If’s!!!

–Danielle Haynes, MSW, LSW, CDCA