Thursday, May 29, 2008

Making the World a Little Bit Better: Shovel by shovel, brush by brush

By Steve Villano

NBC-Universal’s Mary Murano summed it up perfectly.

She had just spent a good chunk of her Sunday at the NCTA Convention in New Orleans painting the kitchen at Kent House, an HIV/AIDS facility in the city’s Ninth Ward. Dressed in paint clothes, not “convention attire,” for most of the day, Mary was dotted with the soft, bright color she had been brushing and rolling on Kent House’s kitchen walls and ceiling.

As Mary’s work detail of some 80 colleagues from NBC-Universal finished up their “makeovers” of Kent House and a larger facility, Lazarus House just two blocks away, Mary was up toward the top of a step ladder, with a look of concern on her face. No, she had no fear of falling, but of not finishing the job she started.

“We’re almost done,” Mary said. “If we only had a little more time, we could finish painting the ceiling.” She had been a key team member of a complete make-over of Kent House, a narrow row house in the Ninth Ward that was home to four HIV positive individuals. Her and several colleagues had given a fresh coat of paint to a dark kitchen, which would soon be receiving bright new cabinets as well.

Other members of her NBC-U team, led by Bridget Baker, NBC Universal’s TV Networks Distribution Group President, completely transformed the small backyard of the independent living facility from an overgrown urban jungle, to a beautifully manicured “secret garden”, complete with a new Bar-B-Que Grill, pink sand, and torches—all of which they purchased out-of-pocket. The residents of Kent House would have their first-ever cook-out in their new garden that night.

The three days of Cable Positive’s “Project Home” was a transformative experience not only for the AIDS facilities which Cable Positive staff, and nearly 100 volunteers from NBC-Universal, SES Americom and Time Warner Cable, built, cleaned, painted, and landscaped—but was life-changing as well, for all of the volunteers themselves, and the people living with HIV in a long-forgotten neighborhood.

It’s the kind of life-giving work Cable Positive has been doing for 16 years in hundreds of local communities, working with thousands of people with HIV/AIDS, in some 40 states, and none of it would be possible without the volunteerism and support of folks like Mary Murano, Bridget Baker, and Cable Positive Board Member Henry Ahn of NBC-Universal; Bryan McGuirk, and Jodi Morelli of SES Americom, Jamie T. Howard of Imagine Communications, and Time Warner Cable’s Bonnie Hathaway, who chairs Cable Positive’s Board of Directors, and spent that Sunday spreading peet moss around plants at Lazarus House. It’s the kind of practical work that helps to change the world bit-by-bit that Cable Positive will continue to do wherever and whenever cable industry employees gather.

And, as Mary Murano so perfectly observed, “if only we had a little more time,” we could finish the work that needs to be done. With your continued involvement, support and help for Cable Positive and people with HIV in communities just like New Orleans, we’ll continue to do the work that needs to be done.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nailing Corporate Social Responsibility

By Steve Villano

As the cable television industry gathers in New Orleans this week, being responsible corporate citizens is foremost on the agenda for many of the 15,000 cable industry leaders and activists. A collection of industry non-profits are galvanizing hundreds of volunteers—many visiting the city for the first time since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina—to do the hands-on work of helping to rebuild public and community structures block-by-block.

Over three days, Cable Positive staff and some 100 volunteers—with most from NBC Universal and SES Americom—will be hammering nails, hanging drywall and painting walls and ceilings for three New Orleans AIDS organizations whose facilities where hit hard by the hurricane. Those three are the New Orleans AIDS Task Force—the largest organization serving people with AIDS in the region; and Project Lazarus and Kent House—both AIDS hospices, where people with AIDS can find a loving, stable home.

The Cable Positive New Orleans volunteers will work for parts of three-full days rebuilding an essential element of the tattered social safety net for people who are HIV positive in the New Orleans community. It is a “Habitat-for-Humanity” type of direct volunteerism, which will yield tangible results—walls & ceilings installed, painted and repaired, so the lives of people with HIV or AIDS get return to some degree of normalcy.

Yet, once we all leave New Orleans next week, the problems will not. The facilities will still need more funds for extensive electrical and plumbing work; people with HIV or AIDS will need more assistance to get transportation to their clinics, money for their anti-retroviral drugs, and help in defeating the stigma attached to the disease—especially in poor communities of color.

That’s why Cable Positive long-term work is even more essential than ever before. In the past, our Tony Cox Community Fund supported the N.O. AIDS Task Force, with grants for its services, and visibility for its programs and clients. We’ve got to do even more in the future, as federal Ryan White funding has been frozen, and more under 25 year olds than ever before continue to get infected with HIV.

Our access to the power of media—cable, internet, cell phones—and the talented individuals who create, produce & distribute all forms of communications on each, has never been of greater value to our communities. Accordingly, Cable Positive’s value to the cable industry—when it comes to delivering socially responsible results in home after home, neighborhood-by-neighborhood has never been higher.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lending a Hand

By Thomas Henning

I have been thinking a lot about Cable Positive staff’s upcoming trip to New Orleans for NCTA’s The Cable Show.

For Cable Positive, The Cable Show is, and has always been a great opportunity to connect with supporters, see what new innovations the industry is set to unveil, and challenging ourselves to identify the opportunities for Cable Positive to further its mission with a win-win strategy for both the HIV/AIDS community and the cable industry. It is about partnership, and The Cable Show is a great opportunity to form or strengthen partnerships in order to support our fight to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

This year, the staff of Cable Positive is excited to be volunteering with two AIDS organizations while in New Orleans to help in their revitalization efforts. Project Lazarus and Kent House, both homes for people living with HIV/AIDS, are still feeling the aftershocks of Hurricane Katrina. Cable Positive, and members of the cable industry, will lend their hand in assisting the full-time staff of both organizations with landscaping, painting, cleaning, and cooking.

Project Lazarus was founded in 1983 and is the oldest and largest assisted living residential facility for people living with AIDS in the Gulf Coast Region. Consisting of four houses, Project Lazarus can house up to 24 individual at a time. This is made possible with the help of 32 full time staff and more than 150 volunteers who provide 24-hour care to the residents.

Kent House, the sister organization of Project Lazarus, is also a residential facility that was so hard hit that $150,000 in additional funding is needed before construction can resume on one of the homes.

In addition to the volunteer work, with the help of 80 people from the NBC U family, that will be happening, Rainbow Media’s President and CEO, Josh Sapan, will be donating 35 piece of art to the residence of both organizations.

It is exciting, right? I mean, the idea that we can go into a community as a team and make a difference; make it more whole, if even by a little bit, is energizing and inspiring. I think that is one of the things I love about the team I work with. We all believe in making a real difference. We all believe in giving others the opportunity to join us as we try to make that difference. Most importantly, we all understand that we can not accomplish it alone—that it does take a village; a community; a team to turn an idea into a reality with momentum. Next week is just one of the many examples of how much we believe in the difference community can make - and community can make a difference - I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it.

It isn’t too late to join us. If you are interested in volunteering, or would like more information, please contact Jennifer Medina, Director of Programs at Cable Positive, at 212-459-1504 or