The Aliveness Project

Hazel. Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project.
Hazel. Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project.

Hazel. Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project.

In the United States today, HIV and AIDs are largely no longer seen as a death sentence.  Many people experience HIV/AIDs as a manageable life-long or chronic illness.  The key word is “manageable.”  But AIDs, unfortunately, has not gone away, and there is no cure.  The numbers of newly infected individuals continues to grow, especially among older adults, young males, and minority communities.  This is coupled with a continuing decrease in funding supports, due largely to reduced sense of urgency.

Quick!  By a show hands…how many readers have heard of, or are aware of, the work of The Aliveness Project?

Hmmmm.   Just about what I thought—not as many hands raised as I had hoped.  Well, let me fill you in.

Founded in 1985, The Aliveness Project provides a wide range of hot meals, food shelf, therapeutic, and other services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  Each year, The Aliveness Project serves over 1,600 HIV-positive individuals and offers a wide array of services, including:

• Serves 34,000 meals in our dining room;

•  Distributes 50 tons of nonperishable food and hygiene items;

•  Provides 36,000 volunteer hours provided by 1,600 volunteers, the equivalent of 17 FTEs (Full Time Employees);

•  Provides 2,400 case management visits to assist with employment, housing, medical care, and education concerns;

•  Delivers 3,000 integrative therapy sessions—acupuncture, massage, and other wellness treatments; and

•  Over 1,500,000 meals have been provided by The Aliveness Project’s Meal Program and Food Shelf since 1985.


•  52% of individuals served were Caucasian (30% African American; 5% African-born; 1% Asian; 6% Latino; 4% Native American; 3% other);

•  72% of individuals served were within FPL and an additional 25% within 300%

•  44% with known risk factors identified as heterosexuals.

•  90% of members surveyed indicated that the services of The Aliveness Project assist them to live independently, avoiding a more costly out-of-home placement.

•  74% of members (with a job) surveyed indicated that “these services make it possible for me to work”, and

•  78% of members (with a job) surveyed indicated that “these services help me keep working at my current job.”

•  90% of members surveyed indicated that the “food services help me stretch my financial resources.”

The Aliveness Project has grown substantially over the past decade and is currently working to move to a new home that will provide significantly more space for its services. The Aliveness Project is currently involved in a capital campaign to raise funds for a new home.  I asked Joe Larson, Executive Director, to describe the capital campaign and the current challenge grant that is underway to help raise the needed funds for the new site.

(side bar) “I am Tim, and I’m positive. I was 18 when I was diagnosed, and it was the end of my life as I knew it. I felt like a leper,and that was pretty awful. At The Aliveness Project everyone is so positive that it helped me to say, ‘OK, HIV is something I have to deal with, and I want what’s best for myself.’ “

Joe, tell us just a little bit about the current capital campaign.

Joe: In 2009, The Aliveness Project launched a $2.5 million capital campaign for the purchase and renovation of a new home at Nicollet Avenue and 38th Street in South Minneapolis. This new facility will offer improved accessibility, a larger food shelf, a spacious dining room, more therapy rooms, and other features to better serve our HIV+ members and their families.  So far we have raised $1.1 million, so we are trying to wrap up the campaign this fall.

And, can you tell us about the matching grant that is currently offered to the Aliveness Project?

The Otto Bremer Foundation has generously committed a $200,000 Matching Grant, so every gift we received now will be matched up to $200,000 and allow us to start construction this year.

In fundraising, we know that no gift is too small or too big.  If people would like to give to make a donation to the Aliveness Campaign, how would they do that?

A donor form for this matching grant can be found on our website at To help us reach $200,000, we are asking people to consider a significant contribution at this time. We will acknowledge all major gifts on the walls of our new building, including:

  • $10,000: Name on THERAPY ROOM (Corporate logo optional)
  • $5,000: Name on plaque in LOBBY (Corporate logo optional)
  • $2,500: Name on plaque in DINING ROOM
  • $1,000: Name on plaque in COMMUNITY ROOM
  • $500: Name on plaque in MEMBER LOUNGE
  • $250: Name on tile in HALLWAY
  • $100: Name on brick in HALLWAY

Gifts can be made in memory of loved ones or in honor of someone living with HIV/AIDS or other persons. This is a great way to create a living memory of those who have been part of our HIV community since the beginning of The Aliveness Project.

I am Hazel, and I’m positive.
I love coming to The Aliveness Project.  I can always come here and find people to visit with, talk to, and be here for me. I love being a volunteer.
They’ve given me so much.
I just want to give back.

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