Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

SAN to celebrate 20th Red Ribbon Gala, preparing for exponential growth

Share this Post:

Founded in 1985 by a group of doctors and social workers who saw a need to support and provide services for those living with HIV and AIDS, the Spokane AIDS Network (SAN) continues on its mission. On March 10, SAN will host "A Night of GLAM," its 20th Red Ribbon Gala, at the Loft inside the Windfall at the at Northern Quest Resort & Casino to bring together the community for a live telecast of the Academy Awards.

Grant Ogren — Courtesy photo  

"SAN has always been community-focused," Grant Ogren, executive director of SAN, told the SGN. The gala was [initiated] to provide an outlet in the gloom of the way HIV was looked at, to be able to have an event that people can dress up [for], [so] they can go have fun, get in on some auction items, and just get together and celebrate community — that was the original concept behind it."

Ogren became the organization's executive director in 2019 and was the only SAN staff member until the addition of five employees this past January. He said the last major Red Ribbon Gala (before last year) was held in 2016, with the COVID-19 pandemic having created further interruptions in recent years.

"Last year was our first year of getting back to having a gala, and we sold out," Ogren said.


The gala will feature a silent auction with Hollywood-related items, as well as LGBTQ-related ones, including signed photographs, comedy club tickets, and Chiefs hockey tickets, among others. A large projector will display the Academy Awards, which will take place from 4 to 7pm.

"We [will have a drag queen MC and a community-member MC, [who] will be talking in between, kind of showcasing some auction items," Ogren said.


Changing needs
In addition to carrying on a community tradition, the gala's purpose is to bring in funding that is not tied to contracts, which can be very specific about the ways that funding is spent. Ogren mentioned how donated funds are very crucial for all nonprofits.

"A lot of the things we do outside of providing that direct clinical case management or nonclinical case management is providing housing dollars, providing beds for people that are going from homeless to housed, providing utility assistance — all the things that everyday people just pay out of their regular checking account," he said. "Most of our clients don't have access to those kind of funds, so we have always had an emergency fund where if somebody is becoming housed, we can go buy them a bed, sheets, [or] help with their first month's utility [bill]."

SAN's biggest program service is the food pantry, which is open to the public and serves over 300 people annually. With the current state of the economy and high grocery expenses, Ogren expects the use of the food pantry to grow.

The nonprofit also offers peer support and housing coordination for clients living with HIV. According to Ogren, about 800 people in Spokane are living with HIV, and about 400 of those are case-managed through the Spokane Regional Health District. By the end of this year, Ogren expects SAN's caseload to consist of about a hundred people.

Ogren noted how the world of HIV has changed much in recent decades, and he is seeing more young people living with HIV and maintaining their worklives. He also said that the aging population living with HIV are developing heart conditions, diabetes, and dementia, similarly to those who do not live with HIV: "They're surviving just like anybody else that doesn't have HIV, but a lot of the older, long-term survivors are getting sicker. Not necessarily from HIV, but just from life."

The needs of this population are changing, Ogren said. "We're finding they're needing more in-home support or delivery of items, trips to the grocery store ... so we're seeing this shift in the way we support clients, and making sure we're offering those support items... This kind of fundraiser is where money goes. We're in a huge growth mode."


Red carpet
The 20th Red Ribbon Gala is a black-tie affair, and while no one will be turned away from the door, SAN encourages attendees to wear their best and brightest sequins, since they will be walking down their very own red carpet. After the appetizers, the buffet dinner will include salmon, chicken, and prime rib. There will also be a wine pull, in which participants can pay $20 for a wine cork with a number on it, and at the end of the night, a bottle ranging from $5 to $150 is paired with the cork number and passed out.

SAN is in search of additional volunteers to assist with check-in and check-out desk operations, and for the wine pull. Ogren encourages those interested in volunteering to reach out through the website (http://www.sannw.org).

While this year's Red Ribbon Gala is expected to be a bigger bash than last year's, SAN is planning to put any and all funds raised to impactful use. It's currently operating under a three-year rental lease, and last year, began a search for a new location.

"We're either looking at building or buying a housing complex to offer LGBTQ-affirming senior housing here in Spokane," Ogren said. As an example, he mentioned Pride Place on Capitol Hill in Seattle, which is a senior-living facility for LGBTQ+ adults and the first of its kind here.

"My intent after our lease is up here is to move into our own building that's part of this complex. SAN would be the community center and the support hub of this new LGBTQ-affirming/HIV-positive complex," Ogren said. "We have so many people in this area — which I didn't realize we did — that are aging, and they have homes that they can't care for anymore, and they're wanting to move somewhere where they can be themselves."