A lesson in HIV

Black AIDS Services and Education hosts bingo event to help educate homeless residents

Thomas Jackson Jr., right, receives a sleeping bag during “Bingo with the Homeless,” which was hosted by Black AIDS Services and Education, or BASE, to educate the homeless about HIV/AIDS.

ELIZABETH HAMILTON/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.

Homeless residents got a lesson in HIV/AIDS education, won cash and other prizes and were fed vegetarian chili during "Bingo with the Homeless" hosted by Black AIDS Services and Education, or BASE.

Held last Thursday at the Alachua County Library Headquarters in downtown Gainesville, nearly 20 homeless residents participated in the game hosted by the non-profit organization, which was formed to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Alachua County.

Cash prizes were provided by BASE, and coats, nonperishable food, a tent, sleeping bags, socks and other items were donated primarily by students from the Gainesville Job Corps Center. The LaVern Porter Dancers also donated some items, and at least two of the dancers who had winning raffle tickests donated the sleeping bags they won to the homeless.

The first winner of the night was Thomas Jackson, 21, of Gainesville. Anthony Greene, a BASE member, gave Jackson a sleeping back after Steven Belk, the new center director at the Job Corps Center, failed to draw a raffle ticket with a winning number.

Jackson high-stepped to the front of the room with a wide smile on his face after getting the sleeping bag.

"I'm homeless and I appreciate this sleeping bag so much because now I'll be warmer," Jackson told the Guardian. "This made my Christmas because I didn't think I was going to get anything for Christmas."

Greene served as the announcer for the game, reading questions pertaining to HIV/AIDS the players had to answer on their bingo boards.

Seven students from Job Corps and other volunteers passed out bowls of chili and salad and cups of sweet tea during the game. Greene asked questions such as "What is the percentage of black women in Alachua County living with HIV/AIDS" and "What is the percentage of Hispanics in Florida living with HIV/AIDS."

Nkwanda Jah, a BASE member and executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, said BASE has sponsored HIV/AIDS education bingo games for different segments of the community.

"This is the first time we've done it this time of year and this is the first time we have targeted the homeless," said Jah while taking a short break from preparing bowls of chili in the community room kitchen on the fourth floor of the library. Jah said the event was very special to her and BASE because of the efforts of the Jobs Corps students, who raised the money to get the items they donated.

Louella Suataron, 19, president of the Student Government Association at Job Corps, said the event was very special to her as well. She said the students held car washes and donated some of their own money to help pay for the items.

"It's actually a privilege to do this because I believe you don't count what you give away," said Suataron, who is from Bushnell. "What you give to people will come back to you double what you gave. I'm blessed to be at Jobs Corps making my life better, so this is a way for me to show my appreciation for having a chance to live a better life. It really feels good being able to do this."

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