By Seth Rosen
As the Managing Director of Development, Communications, and Marketing at GMHC, I supervise the team of amazing people that raise money to support GMHC’s programs, and work to get the word out about GMHC’s groundbreaking work. As a fundraiser for social justice causes for well over a decade I spend most of my time asking people to contribute money, time, and other resources to help people in need.
I actually rarely talk about my own giving, but today GMHC is launching a video campaign titled, “Where Does Your Money Go?” asking people to give to support individuals living with and affected by HIV. I feel like I owe it to our supporters to share my philanthropy story - to come out of the closet, so to speak, about why I give to GMHC. Last year my husband and I donated $100,000 to GMHC, and we are committed to doing the same this year. I give to GMHC to honor my past, present, and future. Let me explain.
I am Jewish, and living in the United States I have always been able to openly practice my religion. However, most of my grandparents were not so fortunate. Three of my grandparents escaped Eastern Europe during World War II to flee persecution. They fled in order to worship openly and be true to themselves. They faced stigma and prejudice as a direct result of their religious beliefs. My step-grandmother, who married my grandfather when I was a baby, had it much worse. She was imprisoned at Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. However, after being liberated, she not only survived, but prospered. She dedicated herself to making sure people remembered the Holocaust, and not only recorded her story, but donated her Auschwitz uniform to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The strength of my grandparents inspires and sustains me every day. I give in memory of them and their legacy. They were discriminated against who they were, just as so many people living with HIV and AIDS are discriminated against simply because they have a virus.
I also give to honor the present, because the epidemic is not over. Last week I met with a family whose son died of AIDS just thirty days earlier. He was a young man in his early twenties who knew he was positive, but did not take his anti-retroviral medication. His friends also told him that he did not need to take his medications, that he could take vitamins and stay healthy. His family came to GMHC to make sure his story was told. Their story was devastating to me, but it doubled my resolve to fight the epidemic. Far too many people do not know their HIV status, or are not connected to healthcare, or on medication to control their HIV. Some just have incorrect facts about HIV and continue to put themselves at risk, un-necessarily. We can do better as a society, and GMHC is the leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Finally, I give to honor my future. My husband and I are in the early process of adopting a child, and I often think of the world that I want my son or daughter to grow up in. There are many things I want for my child, but one of the big things is that they grow up in a world where people are all treated with dignity and respect regardless of their skin color, religion, beliefs, or HIV status I want my child to know that there are people and organizations that are here to help in times of crisis, and that no one need ever be alone because they are LGBT or HIV positive.
Please understand I do not give out my money blindly, and I certainly do not donate to GMHC just because I work here. Every organization has challenges, and right now GMHC is going through a transition as all healthy organizations do from time to time. I know every inch of GMHC, and I still give because this organization does incredible, life-saving, ground breaking work that no other organization does as well as we do. I have complete faith in the future of GMHC, and I will be a contributor as long as I am able. I can think of no better way to honor my past, present, and future.
I hope you will join me in supporting a 31-year-old organization that continues to help, serve and love life every day.