By David-Elijah Nahmod, June Issue Web Exclusives.
As part of its 39th annual volunteer awards and dinner, which took place May 7 at the Marriot Camelback Inn Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Hon Kachina recognized volunteerism within the LGBT and HIV communities.
This year's six away recipients included Kirk Baxter, a long time HIV survivor and volunteer service provider. Baxter's resume begins in 1984, when he became a board member of the Arizona AIDS Fund Trust. As executive director of which, he helped institute the Phoenix-based HIV Case Management Services and Arizona's first Walk For Life. He was also a founding board member of Arizona AIDS Foundation and Arizona AIDS Policy Alliance. He also worked with President Bill Clinton's Federal AIDS Agenda Project and served on the President’s Re-Authorization of the Americans with Disabilities Act Sub-Committee. He then represented Arizona at the first White House Summit on HIV/AIDS.
Colby Hunter, co-chair of the 2016 Hon Kachina Awards, explained to Echo why Baxter was chosen to be honored.
Kirk Baxter. Photo courtesy of honkachina.org.
"Kirk Baxter epitomizes the Hon Kachina Volunteer Award as he has been a pioneering volunteer within the LBGT community," Hunter said. "Kirk identified the need to better serve the HIV community by founding Phoenix Body Positive, known today as Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS. Through Kirk’s efforts, thousands of people have benefited from increased prevention and education, nutrition and wellness, research, counseling; and have access to peer-based advocacy and alternative therapies."
Hunter acknowledged the many boards and organizations upon which Baxter has served over the years.
"Kirk is an honest and trustworthy person who has inspired many others to get involved in his causes, an important requirement for Hon Kachina Volunteer Award recipients," Hunter added. "Because of Kirk's countless volunteer hours over 30 plus years, complete dedication and courage to be a leader implementing change in his community, Kirk Baxter has been selected to receive the 2016 Hon Kachina Volunteer Award."
Hunter's sentiments were reiterated by Bill MacDonald, first chair of Arizona AIDS Project and a founding chair of Equality Arizona.
"From his days marching in the first Phoenix Pride parade to his being the executive director of the Arizona Aids project, Kirk has devoted himself to advancing the fight for equality and for assisting those infected and affected by HIV AIDS," MacDonald said. "Having founded the states largest HIV AIDS organization, which is now called Southwest Center for HIV AIDS, Kirk had the vision and skill to profoundly influence the healthcare of thousands of clients in the Phoenix HIV AIDS community. Kirk's concern for LGBT equality was also demonstrated by his years of work with Equality Arizona, the states largest LGBT advocacy organization."
MacDonald added that he could think of no one else more worthy of the honor than Baxter.
"Of all the people in our community for the Hon Kachina group to honor, Kirk was the obvious choice," he said.
Baxter explained the importance he sees in volunteering in one's community.
"From the grassroots beginnings of any cause, volunteerism powers a movement," he explained. "In the LGBT community, humble beginnings of the first Phoenix Pride events, led to leaders like Bill MacDonald organizing what brought us Equality Arizona. As was the case with many LGBT civil rights activists, many of us switched gears to focus on the AIDS crisis. Phoenix Body Positive was a direct result of people living with HIV stepping forward as volunteers dedicated to caring for our own."
Baxter urges people to volunteer not only for HIV and LGBTQ related causes, but also in the upcoming Presidential election.
"If there ever was a time for people to step forward to make a difference, it is now," he said. "Particularly when it comes to protecting our advancements and electing the best leaders to secure our future."
Additionally, proceeds from the evening's dinner will benefit three Valley organizations: the Body Positive Wellness Center, HEAL International and Equality Arizona.
"The Body Positive Wellness Center provides naturopathic care, including a broad range of holistic therapies and nutritional support for people who are HIV positive," Baxter said. "HEAL International provides mentoring for at-risk youth in Arizona, healing for sex-trafficked children and health capacity building in Tanzania ... [and] Equality Arizona is a charitable, scientific and educational organization with a public awareness focus on issues impacting the LGBTQ Community."
For more information, or to meet the other award recipients, visit honkachina.org.