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Posted 15 Oct 2001   For week ended October 05, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Oct01

By Rosemary Pollock

LDS Assistance Helps AIDS Retreat

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Volunteers from churches including the American Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Presbyterians and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined together at Camp Pinecliff to participate in an AIDS retreat. A group of 78 gathered at the camp near Coalville last weekend to take part in activities for both sufferers and their families. The Interfaith Volunteer Care Program is 10 years old and is run 100 percent on volunteer labor.

"Ten years is a long time, and we're in a different place than we were then," said program organizer Dick Dotson. "We've broadened our perspective and times have changed. People are more willing to help people than perhaps they were 10 years ago, regardless of what the situation may be." Interfaith Volunteer Care is one of three national AIDS organizations to receive a $25,000 grant form the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We had to keep going back and asking for an extension because we put the money in the bank and didn't touch it for years," said organizer Don Steward.

Steward and Dotson see Camp Pinecliff as a chance for people to simply be themselves in a welcoming social context. Campfire talks, bingo games, hikes, crafts, volleyball and many kinds of activities are avalable to those seeking a refuge from their daily routines. In an effort to keep costs down, Steward and Dotson literally run most of the operation out of their dog kennel in West Valley City. "We use the phone here to register people for Camp Pinecliff," Dotson said. They can remember the days when no one would go near someone with the disease for fear the virus was airborne. Now their volunteers help AIDS patients with all sort of grassroot efforts that no other agency has resources to deal with.

"I don't see the situation in Utah with the LDS Church any different from anyplace else in the country," Dotson said who was raised Presbyterian in American Fork and later graduated from an LDS seminary program. "Being from Utah, I'm very comfortable with the Church, but some who come in from the outside are not." "You find people everywhere in every church where it's still someone else's problem, especially when they haven't been personally affected."

Many local gay rights activists groups openly criticized the LDS Church when it publicly condemned acts of homosexuality. However, Dotson and Steward have had a long working relationship with the Church welfare officials who have provided food and clothing. "We met with the First Presidency a few years ago and discussed issues within the HIV arena. Gordon B. Hinckley said to us, 'I have three questions: how many people are affected in Utah now, how many do you expect to be infected by the year 2000, and what can we do as the LDS Church to help?' We were very impressed with that," the men said.

Many of the AIDS care program clients are former Latter-day Saints, Steward reported. Institutionally, the program gets all of its eggs, butter and milk from the LDS Church. "We even have the ability to make referrals for those who need emergency assistance. We can actually do a bishop's request. It's a nice option to give people in low-income housing." "We've tried to have this non-confrontational attitude toward things..... When you have people who see a person in trouble and simply respond because there's a need, we're getting somewhere," they said.


Camp eases AIDS misery
Deseret News 29Sep01 N1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor
Volunteers work on varied initiatives to help sufferers


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