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.

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