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It was a busy weekend for Ron Simmons, president and CEO of Us Helping Us, People Into Living (UHU), the D.C. organization working to improve the health of black gay men and reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the entire black community.
First up was the fall reception for The DC Center, the District’s LGBT community center, Friday, Oct. 12, where Simmons was honored for his community service. He shared the community-service spotlight Friday with two other well-known Washingtonians, Joseph Palacios, a Catholic priest and Georgetown University adjunct faculty member, and attorney Michele Zavos.
David Mariner, executive director of The DC Center, says the fundraising accounting is still underway with a silent auction still active, but confirms, ”We exceeded last year’s event,” with about 125 attendees at the Hotel Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square.
Come Saturday, it was Simmons’s turn to transition from awardee to awarder at UHU’s ”A Passion for Living Annual Celebration,” held at Arena Stage. UHU offered four awards at the Oct. 13 gala. The Founders Award went jointly to Beryl Koblin, Dr. Ken Mayer and Darrell Wheeler for their research, the HPTN 061 study, the ”first national HIV-prevention study of black gay men.” The Chairman Award recognized K&L Gates LLP, particularly partner Lawrence C. Lanpher, for pro bono legal services provided to UHU. Ronald E. Morgan earned the Marvin E. Young Volunteer’s Award for ongoing service to UHU and other groups, stepping up to help with fundraising, outreach and even painting the UHU headquarters ahead of a reception welcoming attendees of the XIX International AIDS Conference in July. Finally, Thurlow Tibbs Awards, recognizing ”outstanding individual effort for HIV programs and services in the African-American community,” were awarded to ABilly S. Jones-Hennin and Sheila Alexander-Reid.
Simmons added that the Saturday night event veered a bit off-script thanks to a particular gay businessman and philanthropist.
”D.C. Allen was there and put up a $5,000 matching fund,” Simmons said of the owner of the Crew Club gym, noting that as of the Oct. 15 donations were still coming in.