FORT WALTON BEACH — Supporters have pledged more than $20,000 in donations to the struggling Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Service.
The agency, which has served local AIDS and HIV patients since 1991, announced Dec. 24 that dwindling revenue might force it to close in the coming months.
The community’s response was a welcome surprise, said Butch McKay, executive director of the organization.
“It felt good. It was encouraging,” he said. “I’m a lot more hopeful than I was on Christmas Eve.”
Since going public with its funding woes, OASIS has received about $6,000 in small, private donations as well as a $10,000 commitment from an anonymous donor in Tallahassee.
The organization also received a pledge for $5,000 from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a national and international AIDS outreach group that has a location in Pensacola.
“Then we’ve got another $25,000 in additional prevention funds from the state (Department of Health),” McKay said. “So that’s going to help.”
OASIS also closed one of its two Pensacola offices and eliminated two positions.
OASIS assists people living with HIV and AIDS with medications, treatments, insurance challenges and counseling. In 2012, OASIS provided more than 900 free HIV tests and helped more than 200 people manage their HIV/AIDS diagnosis.
OASIS also hosts the annual Positive Living Conference, which is considered the oldest and largest conference for HIV-positive people in the nation. The event draws participants from across the nation.
The organizers of the conference learned of OASIS’ funding situation and also decided to help out.
“They’re going to start doing little fundraisers all over the country with people who usually attend the conference,” said McKay, who has been talking with supporters in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and other parts of Florida.
The conference, which is usually held in March, has been moved to September, he added.
OASIS also has received money from the Red Ribbon Foundation to pay a consulting firm to help reorganize the nonprofit’s administrative structure.
McKay said OASIS lost a large piece of its funding when the federal government decreased the revenue going to smaller, more rural communities.
“When the national AIDS strategy came out, it really hurt rural communities because there were no new pots of money,” he said. “They just did this redistribution where they put most of the money into primarily your major cities.”
OASIS immediately saw its operating revenue drop by $208,000 a year, McKay said.
“And our caseload hasn’t dropped any,” he said. “We’re doing a good job of serving our clients; it’s just more difficult when you don’t have the funds to do it.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow at 850-315-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KariBnwfdn.