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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1986)
"A need to
make a difference"
Steve Fulmer and
the men and women
by Pat Scott
C atholic, Baptist, Presbyterian___There is
another religion, not designated by pious
garb o r com plicated rites, not backed by
presidential adm inistration. It’s called sim ply
Hum an Com passion, “ the need to make a
difference” in the hum an condition. And it is
in this m ost basic sense that Steve Fulm er
and the m en and wom en o f CHESS/PAL
Project are "religious.'
CHESS/PAL Project was created to pro
vide the dow n-to-earth, practical support and
em otional buoying up needed in particular
by persons living with AIDS: those with the
disease, their families, loved ones, and friends.
(CHESS) Community Health & Essential
The “ C om m unity” is ours: lesbians and
gay m en living in the Portland area, and their
extended fam ilies.
The “ Health” o f the clients and friends of
CHESS/PAL is changed, challenged, life-
threatened. They are persons touched by
AIDS, ARC (AIDS Related Com plex), stroke,
m alignant cancer, disabling accident
The "Essential S upport Services” are as
basic as transportation, housekeeping and
shopping. Referral services — help in locat
ing financial, m edical, legal and professional
counseling assistance — are available. And
em otional support is provided through
CHESS/PAL Project as well: a shoulder,
som eone w ho knows, som eone who cares, a
(PAL) Personal Active Listener
A young m an is suddenly faced with hav
ing AIDS, ARC, o r his test shows positive
antibodies. Suddenly he is alm ost unbearably
alone. W ho to tell? W ho to confide in? What
lies ahead? The PAL Project volunteers are
there to help, to listen.
The spouse o f a man with AIDS has worked
hard, has been supportive, loving: but the
stress is wearing him down. D ifficulties esca
late during an 8-m onth, 9-m onth, year, two-
year period. A PAL Project volunteer is there
again. Som eone who knows, who cares, who
listens . . . a friend. In some cases, the only
A nd other basic supports are being
developed through PAL P roject Food (The
Casserole Brigade — to regularly furnish cas
seroles and stocky soups to hom ebound
clients) and Housing (The Housing Project
— hoping to secure and manage low-cost
rental housing units for those unable to find
suitable shelter w ithin their means). A
coordinator is needed, and m ore volunteers
— and, o f course, money. (Can you help?)
Steve Fulm er has been the force behind
CHESS and the PAL P roject He adm its to
being "a builder, a starter, an initiator." He's
organized, efficient a m over and a shaker in a
real sense. As he talks o f his w ork the words
"K aposi’s sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii
pneum onia, opportunistic infections" are
spoken as easily and fam iliarly as m onosyl
lables. He knows his su b je ct which is AIDS,
and his business.
W hen pushed to clarify what it is that he
does exactly, the answer sounds like a course
in Public or Business A dm inistration and
cause enough for a heart attack.
“ I'm a principle com m unicator fo r the
w ork; I chair the board; I prepare the agendas;
I write large portion o f the external com m un i
cations; I’m playing a principle role in a fund
raising project we re doing February 28,
P erform ing Artists fo r Life. I'm on the board
o f that group; I’m the principle AIDS organi
zation representative. 1 sit on the Citizens A d
visory Board fo r County Hum an Services to
make sure that AIDS gets its slice o f the social
service pie. I’ve w ritten all four o f the m ajor
grants subm itted. I did the lobbying and
speaking fo r the $30,000 we ju st got through
the Board o f C om m issioners___"
B ut this listing o f agendas and contacts is
not all that com prises CHESS/PAL, its volun
teers, staff, or Steve Fulmer.
C hester/E sther Brinker was one o f the first
people in the Portland com m unity (and cer
tainly the best know n) to contract AIDS.
“ T h at’s what brought it hom e to me,"
rem em bers Fulm er, “ that people were dying
w ithout any support from the gay com m un
ity. N ot only were they not getting any support
fro m the governm ent, but they weren’t even
getting support from their friends.”
This is when things began to move and
Largely under F ulm er’s instigation, pro
ceeds fro m a concert by the Portland Gay
M en’s C horus were offered to Cascade AIDS
Project, exclusively to found a service organi
zation. (CAP itself is involved solely in educa
tio n and the prevention o f AIDS.) $2300 was
raised "and the meetings began," Fulm er says.
CHESS/PAL Project began services as a
separate organization in June o f 1985. Since
th a t tim e they have “ provided direct service
to m ore than 300 persons, used m ore than
17,000 volunteer hours, supplied an addi
tio nal 10,000 hours in volunteered adm inis
trative support, m anaged m ore 200 fully ac
tive volunteers, directed m ore than $ 150,000
in in-kind contributions, collected over
$20,000 in public con trib utio ns" as well as
produced brochures and newsletters, sub
m itted grant proposals, and spoken before
num erous organizations and individuals.
Facts are cold. The people involved, how
ever, are n o t
Beneath the organized, efficient exterior;
beneath the num bers and the statistics is the
m otivation. "The pitch we re giving govern
m ent agencies is that practical support can
save them money: You can’t afford to not
support us.’ But our volunteers and the people
w ho’ve put in tens o f thousands o f planning
hours to make this project function didn’t do
it to save the dam ned governm ent a dim e.
The m otivation for the people involved is
strictly hum an com passion; providing people
w ith affection, not rejection.”
It’s not easy. Fulm er has seen friends die, is
supportive o f others who are now living with
the challenge o f AIDS. Hard w ork and stress
are things Fulm er has lived with before but
the grie f — the loss o f friends, handling "the
anticipatory grie f o f m y friends still living with
AIDS” — this is a terrible new lesson. He
deals with it with the help o f his spouse, his
friends, the courage and optim ism o f those
living w ith AIDS. One foot in fro nt o f the other,
F u lm e r and his associates keep on. “ It's what
there is to do," he says pragm atically.
Still, everyone can experience bum -out and
F ulm er w ill step back soon, still keeping a
hand in the P roject still being involved in the
C horus, but retreating ju st a little. His friends
d o n ’t th in k he can do it ju st be a regular guy
w ithout all o f his calendar filled. Fulm er thinks
otherwise. He does a d m it however, that do
ing nothing can’t last fo r to o long.
“ S om ething w ill com e along that’s ju st
m ade fo r me. W here I feel I can make a
difference. T hat’s what I enjoy d o in g ... m ak
ing a difference in the lives o f m y friends."
And Fulm er and his people have an im
portant message they'd like to get across.
“AIDS is not spread by casual contact: Hug
ging does not cause AIDS. And ignoring the
problem doesn’t make it go away."
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