Legacy Counseling Center’s Executive Director, Melissa Grove is no wallflower, but she becomes even more animated if you ask her who is the most under-served population of people living with HIV/AIDS. “Women make up 1 in 4 new HIV diagnoses but no one knows that, and so women don’t get the help and services they need” she’ll quickly tell you. Melissa has worked for two decades trying to bridge that gap, both in outreach to women and in public perception.
“People think they know what an HIV positive person looks like, but they don’t realize that they could be their friend, their neighbor… their grandma! These women need our counseling and substance abuse treatment, but unless we reach them, they may never get the care they deserve. That’s why we started the Grace Project.”
The Legacy Grace Project began as a pizza party aimed at getting a group of HIV+ women together so they would realize they weren’t alone. Melissa enlisted sponsors and community organizations, and a full-fledged weekend conference emerged along with year-round seminars on life-affirming topics like health matters, workforce readiness and advocacy.
“We use the Grace Project to S.E.E. our women: Support, Educate and Empower” Melissa tells anyone who will listen. “The more people who hear and understand how important awareness is to these women, the better we can respond to their needs and stop the spread of AIDS, which really thrives on ignorance.”
North Texas Giving Day is a great way to tell even more people these women’s stories and let the community respond. Legacy has created a way to send an HIV+ woman to the Grace Project Conference by sponsoring a scholarship. “For only $50, anyone can give a low or no income woman an opportunity to attend this life-changing event where they will hear motivational and medical speakers, learn important life skills from partners like Bank of America and Texas Instruments and get support from other agencies and each other.”
Grace Project participant Helen knows how much that matters. “I said ‘I can’t have HIV because it didn’t fit my profile.’” After years of hiding her diagnosis, she used the Grace Project to move from the shadows into the light, and now is a leading advocate for North Texans with HIV. She couldn’t do it alone and North Texas Giving Day is when the community can support Legacy in this important work!