Food bank continues despite folding of AIDS Task Force |

Food bank continues despite folding of AIDS Task Force

A lawsuit forcing the fold of the nonprofit Lake Tahoe Aids Task Force will not stop the Task Force’s only paid employee from carrying out her duties.

Anne Thennes, who operated a weekly food bank out of her home for AIDS patients at the South Shore, said she will keep her door open despite the lawsuit filed July 9 in El Dorado County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, filed by former Task Force President Simon Harvey and former board member Todd Mason, claimed that the Task Force was in violation of state Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation and being run fraudulently and not in the public’s best interest. As a remedy, the lawsuit calls for dissolution of the nonprofit organization.

Task Force President Eric Taxer denied the charges but agreed to dissolve the organization because of a lack of finances and time to contest the lawsuit.

Thennes said the Task Force may no longer exist but she will persevere.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going away,” she said. “If anyone wants to come over, I’ll be here waiting.”

Thennes said the pantry service, which is offered every Thursday, is a way for people with AIDS to get free food so that they can spend money on medications and treatments.

A food bank is already provided by Christmas Cheer in South Lake Tahoe.

But, as the weeks rolled by, Thennes said the weekly meetings turned into something more – a group therapy session.

“In one sense it looks like a duplication of services but the pantry works on many different levels and helps with building a sense of community,” she said. “The food bank was the bait to get people over here. They won’t come over just to talk.”

She said, in the course of picking up their groceries, they would stay and talk about their medications or doctor visits. Sometimes parents and family members joined in so they could benefit from the support group setting. According to Thennes, about six to eight people use the food bank every week.

She also said the 12 or so Task Force volunteers worked one-on-one with clients for emotional support. They also gave practical support by providing transportation to treatment centers in San Francisco and by helping with household duties when clients were too sick to carry them out alone.

Though Thennes plans on continuing the food bank, other services will have to be addressed in another way.

That’s where the Sierra Foothills AIDS Foundation comes in.

Sierra Foothills, based out of Grass Valley, Calif., has signed a contract with the El Dorado County Health Department. Mostly on the tab of Ryan White federal grant money, the foundation is planning on staffing a part-time case management worker in the community within the next few weeks.

“It is absolutely critical that we hire someone locally,” said Jeff Cowen, executive director of the Sierra Foothills AIDS Foundation. “This is a community based program, not to mention that travel is very difficult and sometimes impossible in the winter months.”

He said the foundation will offer similar, if not the same, services as the Task Force with one exception – the food bank.

“I don’t expect we’ll do a food bank,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s necessary.”

Instead, Cowen said Sierra Foothills will have a food program that operates with vouchers. He said having the clients shop for themselves is part of a tactic of empowerment where they continue to care for themselves instead of relying on the system. If the clients are too sick to shop for themselves, then the foundation would send someone to do it for them.

Cowen also said Sierra Foothills is a stable organization with a stout reputation including a list of long-term funding sources, a $600,000 annual budget to provide service in Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties and a history of long-term contracts.

While Sierra Foothills settles into the South Shore community, the Task Force wraps up its loose ends.

According to Taxer, the organization’s assets, which total about $15,000, will be dispersed through a voucher system to clients or given to the Nevada AIDS Foundation or the Sacramento AIDS Foundation.

“Because of the Articles of Incorporation we cannot give the money to Sierra Foothills,” he said.

In the meantime, Taxer said the organization has stopped its fund-raising efforts but is still providing some services to its clients. After their final board meeting in September, he said the Task Force will file the formal papers of dissolution with the attorney general.

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