Tuesday’s Angels began the farewell process almost a year and a half ago when its leadership announced it would slowly dissolveover the course of 10 years.
The group of gay men was well known for a once a month Tuesday dinner in Wilton Manors where a hat was passed around for donations to go to those in crisis due to HIV/AIDS. The dinners went on for decades and the group used its fundraising to provide a variety of assistance to HIV-positive gay men.
Tuesday’s Angels has given out close to $3 million over its lifetime to individuals and organizations involved in the HIV crisis.
But the final curtain call officially began on Nov. 30, 2018. It wasn’t bad news, but was simply due to the fact that its leaders had achieved much of what the founders had intended.
In addition, the face and nature of HIV has changed significantly over time – there are more women, children and straight people now – and overall conditions have improved.
There’s still a need out there, no doubt, but it’s a different situation than the crisis it once was.
Not only that, but as Tuesday’s Angels president Mike Ross explained it, the group’s leaders were also simply getting old. There are two in their 80s, two in their 70s and Ross is the youngest at 69. He said donors and volunteers were mostly older as well.
Tuesday’s Angels now has five advisers who have been operating through the transition – Ross, Chuck Nicholls, Dick Schwarz, Bennett Quade and Don Richards.
While the Tuesday night dinners ended, as part of the transition the group would use any remaining funds to provide HIV support to those in need until 2028 through a special fund at Our Fund in Wilton Manors.
Since that time, Ross said there have been a couple new developments.
Tuesday’s Angels now includes HIV prevention efforts in South Florida as part of their mission.
“The reason for that is because Florida has the third highest rate of new HIV infections in the country,” Ross said. “There’s been a real emphasis on prevention at the local, state and national level and we were asked to consider expanding our mission to help meet that need.”
HIV prevention was never part of the group’s original goals – it has always been to assist those who were already in the midst of an HIV crisis.
“It seems to be a very important issue, because if you can prevent people from getting HIV you will prevent people from transmitting it as well,” Ross said.
Ironically, the number of new HIV cases is dropping in metro areas like New York and San Francisco, but it’s not the case in South Florida. Ross thinks there are a number of reasons for that.
“A lot of the people in South Florida do not follow up. They start treatment, but don’t follow up – due to issues like transportation, substance abuse, mental illness, bureaucracy and access to PrEP.”
He said other cities make it easier for people to access services. South Florida grapples with cultural reasons and stigmas, too, he said.
“Young people don’t think it’s as big of an issue,” Ross said. “They think they can take medication and they’re fine. But in Florida, almost 100 people died of AIDS in 2017. People are still dying and young people may not see that.”
Tuesday’s Angels now has an HIV Fund at Our Fund. It contributed $10,000 to it this year, and will donate another $10,000 next year.
The other big change is that the group voted to complete its dissolution faster than previously announced – in five years instead of 10.
“The older [advisers] felt they wanted to participate in getting out the money – but [that] 10 years wasn’t practical,” Ross said.
Speeding the transition up will also allow more monies to go out each year, he said.
Ross said even though the group has given out about $25,000 since last year – including $10,000 to SunServe and $5,000 to Latinos Salud – the fund still has about $300,000 in it.
“People have been generous and continue to contribute to the Tuesday’s Angels cause,” Ross said.
He said they get donations from individuals, foundations, and from events like the recent “Bartenders, Boxers and Briefs” fundraiser that brought in $7,000.
“We hope people will continue to give us money, so we can give out more,” Ross said. “We are very pleased people are still supporting our mission. We’ve had an extremely generous and loyal group of people who have given to us over many, many years.”
Those interested in donating can give to the Tuesday’s Angels Fund at Our Fund. Go to Our-Fund.org for more.