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Howard Brown reaches $500K target
by Yasmin Nair

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Howard Brown Health Center has reached its 50 days, $500,000 fundraising target.

A little more than two months ago, Jamal Edwards, the CEO of Howard Brown and then-chair of the board of directors Mark Andrews stood in front of a group of press and community members to announce that the organization was in deep financial trouble and would need $500,000 by the end of the year if it were to keep its doors open, and an additional $500,000 over the next year. In an understated but enthusiastic announcement and reception Dec. 23, Edwards spoke to a group of approximately 60 to announce that they had raised more than $658,754.

The amount came from 1,200 donors, according to Edwards, and was significantly added to by a donation of $25,000 from Walgreens, announced by Denise Scarpelli, the company's market pharmacy director. Edwards spoke of the 20-year partnership between Walgreens and HBHC. Beginning Jan. 1, according to an accompanying press release, Walgreens "will expand its participation in Howard Brown's 340B program beyond the Sheridan Road clinic to include Walgreens locations at Clark and Barry and Broadway and Ridge."

In addition, an anonymous male donor, whose son received healthcare upon being diagnosed with HIV about seven years ago, donated $200,000 in a matching challenge grant. That person appeared via speakerphone and spoke for a few minutes about the reasons for his donation, specifically citing the work of Dr. Robert Garafalo in the care of his son: " [ My son ] spent two months in the hospital and Rob was probably there as much as I was." Edwards noted that Dahlia Mehdi, then in the nursing department, had also been instrumental in the man's care.

The anonymous donor credited Howard Brown's care and treatment program for his son's turnaround saying, "a year later, my son ran the Chicago marathon, a year later he married, a year later, I have my first grandchild. … I tried to imagine a young guy or girl … maybe their parents, because of choices they've made, aren't as supportive of them." Praising Howard Brown, he said, "It's an ongoing effort—it's your organization, your entity, these people are here for us. … Jamal is a unique individual who brings the stability, transparency, and clarity that this organization's probably needed for some time."

Edwards spoke about Howard Brown's troubled past year, noting that, "… we told you about our past mistakes and our aggressive plans to correct those mistakes and rebuild Howard Brown Health Center. None of this was easy to say nor was it easy for any of you to hear. So we put it out there in the open where it belongs. In doing so we have changed the way Howard Brown does business and we have become more open and transparent in our operations. In doing so we are returning the community's health center back to the community."

Mark Andrews, outgoing chair of the board of directors [ the entire board is stepping down by June ] , spoke briefly, thanking the community for its "tremendous generosity" and adding, "50 days ago, we stood here and reached out to you. In the last 50 days, you have reached out to us." Edwards presented Andrews and the board with a plaque "gratefully acknowledging our board of directors for being a true lifeline to our community from me on behalf of everybody who loves Howard Brown."

A press release sent out the previous day announced that Karma Israelson will be taking over as board chair on Jan. 1, 2011. Israelson joined the board in July and is vice president of regulatory operations and compliance for Career Education Corporation, where Mark Andrews also works. Andrews declined to speak to Windy City Times. The entire board will comprise of new members by June 30, 2011.

Edwards pointed out that the contributions came from many places, local, national, and international and that many people made considerable sacrifices in order to donate. He gave the example of a patient who made $20,000 but who gave $2,000. He also spoke glowingly of the "talented, amazing staff whom I am more than privileged to lead and who over the course of this have … dug into their own pockets, in their own time, who sacrificed time with their loved ones in the spirit and the mission of Howard Brown Health Center." Concluding, Edwards said, "It's a new day at Howard Brown Health Center … now privileged to serve its 37th year. We're here, we're not going anywhere."

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