Heartland CARES Expands Client Collaboration

The mission of Heartland CARES, Inc. (HCI) is to embrace those affected by HIV/AIDS with open arms through care, prevention and community awareness. Our value statement reiterates our commitment to providing services that meet the needs of our clients, stakeholders and community as a whole with collaboration between clients, staff and the Board of Directors in improving the effectiveness of our services and activities by utilizing the opinions, experiences and expertise of each.

While there are no mandated requirements for how HCI utilizes the vast understandings, skills and knowledge of those affected by HIV and those living with HIV/AIDS, we recognize that the best way to provide the most effective and comprehensive care and services is to provide as many venues as possible for our clients to communicate and contribute to the process. One recommendation and method for providing this collaboration is through the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB). This method was employed by HCI until recently. CAB was developed with the purpose to ensure adequate client representation of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in the planning, implementation and ongoing evaluation of services provided by HCI. As a stand-alone organization of clients who applied to be members through an application process and was promoted, reviewed and accepted by the existing membership, CAB’s by-laws called for a representation of 10-20 clients and one staff representative serving in an advisory capacity only.

The Consumer Advisory Board of Heartland CARES, Inc. was officially organized on March 20, 2001 with the intent to provide a confidential, active voice as well as a direct line of communication between the clients, the staff and the Board of Directors. This collaborative effort allowed clients the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and experience related to living with HIV/AIDS.

At the August 10, 2017 meeting, the CAB chair tendered his resignation to the other members in a written letter as he was not present at the meeting. The six members of CAB present met with Executive Director, Donna Reeder, to discuss a more effective way to move forward with partnership efforts. During this meeting the discussion was focused on how to better represent the entire base of clients at HCI. Recruitment efforts over the past have not garnered the 10-20 client membership that is called for in the by-laws, and the current CAB participation rate is at less than four percent of HCI’s client base.

The membership agreed to refocus their energies and approach their collaboration efforts in a different way. CAB members, other clients, volunteers and staff will work together to hold a fall yard sale at HCI on Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23. On October 6, 2017 from 10:00 am-12:00 pm, HCI will host an event for clients called “All Things Pumpkin.” Both events will be highly publicized to clients and the community through signage, HCI’s website and social media sites. Plans for holiday events are in progress and will be announced at a later date.

“I also want to remind our clients and public that through HCI and CAB’s fundraising efforts, personal hygiene and cleaning product bags are available for clients in need on an ongoing basis,” according to Executive Director Reeder. “Volunteer opportunities are available on a daily basis. It takes every one of us to provide the services that are needed here.” Reeder and Board of Directors Chair, Dr. Peggy Munke, are committed to the needs of the clients and continue to provide opportunities for all of HCI’s stakeholders to contribute to meet the ongoing needs of our clients.