Missy Koonce is the New Leading Lady with the AIDS Service Foundation

Friends of Missy Koonce saw the social media networks seem to explode July 15 when what seemed like half the population of Kansas City congratulated her on her new role as board president of the AIDS Service Foundation.

Koonce takes over from John Pinkerton, who is at the end of his second two-year term as president.

She has been involved with the AIDS Service Foundation and AIDS Walk for 22 years, most recently starring in the theater event Auntie Mame’d, which raised money for the foundation. She has been an at-large member of the foundation board for nearly nine years, wrapping up the third of her three-year terms. At-large members can serve up to three three-year terms and presidents up to two two-year terms.

Not only that – she is also often the emcee, along with her soulmate and fellow actor Ron Megee, at foundation events like AIDS Walk, the AIDS Walk Open, Party with a Purpose, AIDS Bicycle Cruise and more.

The AIDS Service Foundation provides funds to support four primary AIDS Service organizations — SAVE Inc., KC Care Clinic, Hope Care Center and the Good Samaritan Project — as well as individual grants to other organizations.

Camp sat down to meet with Koonce and John Pinkerton in July to talk about the transition.
Camp: How was the president selected?
Koonce: [In> 2014, I would have rolled off the board. In the last couple of years, I haven’t been doing as much theater and really not doing that much acting per se except every three years, whether I need to or not, and not owning bar Natasha any longer, I really don’t want to leave the board, and my only other option would be to serve on the executive committee.
So that was up for a vote?
Pinkerton: The nomination committee meets, and they solicit nominations from the board itself, and then they review and consider them, and then put forth the slate. And the board then voted on the slate in July, and Missy’s name was on there as president.
So this will be a two-year commitment?
Koonce: At least a two-year commitment — at least, if I get through that!
I realize this is more of a question for KC Care and the AIDS service organizations, but is much going to change in October with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?
Koonce: It won’t affect our organization directly.
Pinkerton: We are sensing actually that every time we give a check we’re hearing more and more about how the ASOs really need the money. Zori [Rodriguez of SAVE Inc."> said in the last meeting, “Money’s been promised, but it hasn’t hit us yet. We’re in that middle ground.” And I think the sequestration is also hitting them. Where’s the money coming from? So the fact that we give unrestricted funds to these agencies allows them to put the money where they need it most. The idea being that any help we provide is always going to support them. We’re lucky to have those ASOs. They’re all run so well. It may not be the dollar that goes directly to a client, but it’s helping that client.
Koonce: It does keep the organization open to provide the services. And honestly, for me, it’s a little bit of a struggle. I mean, the one thing that keeps me focused and on all the right side of that is if the money keeps the organization open, then we’re continuing to provide those services. If they were to close, there would be no services. But you know I’m a diehard activist from the ACT UP days, so, you know, in my blood that of course I would wish all of the money could go directly to HIV and AIDS services, but these are organizations…., it’s not doing anybody any good if the businesses can’t run. They’re all very worthy.
Pinkerton: I think it’s really clear that people need to understand that we’re not giving to research. We’re giving to direct services that provide medical, housing, emotional support. That’s OK, research is very good and we will all benefit from that.
Koonce: That’s for a board with members that write big checks!
Pinkerton: If there was a cure tomorrow — let’s say there was a vaccine — we will remain dedicated to this while we still have a person living with HIV/AIDS. We won’t be done until everyone is HIV-free or an AIDS-free generation.
So what is the priority for you both right now? World AIDS Day in December?
Koonce: Well, it’s the AIDS Bicycle Cruise in September.
Pinkerton: One of our challenges is that we want to bring more awareness that all of our work culminates with AIDS Walk. We have a lot of great events, and some of them might feel like they’re stand-alone, like when you go to AIDS Walk Open, you’re done. We really want to … use each of these as an opportunity — and even World AIDS Day — that we’re going to have an ask at every event. We’re inviting people to form teams and come to AIDS Walk, even at the AIDS Bicycle Cruise. We want people to start connecting the dots that all of these connect to AIDS Walk.
Koonce: This isn’t the last event that you’re going to, this is the first event that you’re going to!
Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked you?
Koonce: It was really encouraging and completely overwhelming and lovely to get the positive response that I’ve gotten from the community.
Pinkerton: There are a lot of thankless jobs in this world, and this is not one of those. There are always people that are expressing their appreciation, and I will miss that, but also look forward to helping in other ways.
Koonce: I’ll be happy to have him right by my side, every step of the way, that first year!"

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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