September 17, 2020
Volunteers at non-profit organizations are vitally important. Damien Center is no exception, and volunteer Steve Jaggers is a contributor with staying power. He’s been with Damien Center for a number of years, and aside from his efforts and financial support, the knowledge he’s acquired through his work on Damien Center fundraising events has become an asset in itself.
A Columbus, IN native, Steve has worked on both Dining Out for Life and Grande Masquerade. Dining Out for Life has been postponed until September this year thanks to the Covid19 crisis, but he is optimistic it will continue to be successful. In his role as volunteer coordinator he’ll be assigning volunteers and equipping them with tools they need to represent Damien Center at participating restaurants. He’s a great teacher, as he served that very role of ambassador for five years. “Some diners know everything we do, some very little. And everything in between,” says Steve. “There is a pressing need for HIV education. When you are informed, you can inform other people. These events help get the facts out.”
His role with Grand Masquerade is similar - he coordinates and trains volunteers. He also helps in the recruitment of vendors and auction items. This can be a tedious and time consuming process, and that role is served best by a person like Steve who excels at relationship building. When vendors, auction item donors, and sponsors care about the cause as much as the organizers do, the event grows. That is exactly what the work of Steve and his team have brought about.
“The night is growing bigger and bigger,” says Steve. “Last year we were at the JW Marriott.” (The 2020 event will be at the Indy Marriott, with an equally large ballroom.) With quite a few charity events in Indianapolis, Steve reflected on what makes Grande Masquerade different. “It IS Indy. Even though it's a big event, it feels more like a hometown crowd. You’ll see a lot of people you know. People who use Damien’s services are there. Often the clients are volunteers. It is not some large national organization. You are celebrating with the people who run the organization and receive services, but they can also be your neighbor.”
Steadfast supporters like Steve often have a good perspective on how an organization has evolved. “I’ve seen Damien Center offer more and more services through the years. They now offer a test to every single person who walks in the door. Sometimes a person just doesn’t feel comfortable going to their family doctor, so this is a tremendous service. And, this is why events are so important. They support this work.”
Steve is a thoughtful man, and answered in that manner when asked what he would say to a person thinking about donating to Damien Center. “First, I would combat the perception that Damien Center is just a place for the LGBT community. It is not. This place is focused on our community as a whole. When you send a check in, your donation affects neighbors, family and friends. Anyone who is HIV+ in Central Indiana.”
The bricks outside of Damien Center, with names of donors on them, illustrate to Steve how far Damien Center has come. “They are often in memory of an HIV patient. We’ve gone from doom and gloom to celebrating people who now live with HIV and are healthy and doing well.”
But he makes the point that there is also a false sense of security, even though treatments have gotten better. “It is much easier to contract HIV from someone who has never been tested,” stresses Steve. “Precautions still need to be taken, and education about Damien Center’s testing and prevention services is something donor dollars help promote.”
Time is a precious commodity for most people, including Steve who works full time as an estimator with Firestone Building Products. With Americans overall not volunteering as much, non-profit organizations recognize the need to treat the volunteers they already have well. “Damien Center really does appreciate their volunteers. You can put in as little or as much time as you’d like,” says Steve. “Instead of sitting on the couch or gaming for a few hours, you can do something for others, and in turn you’re doing something for yourself too. When you support a charity like Damien Center, you find your own balance.”
Damien Center is extraordinarily fortunate that time spent on its fundraising events is a part of Steve’s balance. His generous giving and work behind the scenes embodies the quote, “Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”