90 Days in My Rearview Mirror — 

They say time passes quickly – and the first 90 days at Clare Housing have been a blur! After my hire, I arrived like a kid beginning their first day of school. I may have been ready for day one, but my work space was not! I was greeted with an IOU for my desk on the first day. But my new co-workers helped me improvise and I was soon up and running.

I learned passwords, the phone system, fellow employee names — you know the drill.  I traveled to various sites, called and met with key donors and board members, and worked to get my “sea legs” under me. I did all I could to add to the agency.

Jim Seas

This was Jim’s workspace on Day 1. He was a great sport about it!

Along the way I raised some money, wrote several grants, and began to assess where I could make my mark. I tried to listen more than I spoke, and to ask questions rather than assume.

Since that first day, I’ve come to realize staff don’t just “work” at Clare Housing — they LIVE it!  The depth of knowledge, compassion, and commitment is evident every day. The manner in which Clare Housing staff respect and advocate for our residents is second to NONE.

In support of Clare Housings’ important work, I personally became a Journey Home Circle member, making my 5 year commitment to our residents. After so many years in fundraising, I live by the quote, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Our residents are living with HIV. Many have been homeless, and many are struggling with chemical addiction and/or mental illness. As an outsider you might think this is a challenging place to work.  And you would be right – but for the wrong reasons.

Our work is challenging. We are fighting stigma, fear and ignorance surrounding HIV. We are fighting to affect lives. Sadly, after 35 years, HIV is not over. We are constantly looking to find and secure more funding partners, and to create a safe, supportive, place of peace where our residents have a sense of community and acceptance. Personally, I feel up to that challenge.

In June I volunteered at the US Bank booth at Pride on behalf of Clare Housing. US Bank had generously included us in a fundraiser that day. While there, I heard similar stories from many, “You helped my Uncle when he needed it.” “You were there for my friend when his own family refused to accept or help him.”  Sometimes there were smiles with their stories, many times there were tears.

Jim poses with resident Greg at the US Bank booth at Pride.

Jim poses with resident Greg at the US Bank booth at Pride.

To hear these stories and to understand the impact Clare Housing has made over the last 30 years brought the challenge “home” to me. So much has changed. HIV is no longer a death sentence. With treatment people can live long vibrant lives. With medication, preventing the development of AIDS is possible. With that said, there is MORE WORK still to be done.

So it’s time to get to work!  At Clare Housing, these women and men who are living with HIV find a home – a community.  A place where they can be themselves between these walls and  knowing that they will not be kicked out if someone discovers they are living with HIV, or because they are transgender, or gay, or struggling to stay sober.

I am HONORED and humbled to be part of Clare Housing. I look forward to the new challenges we as an agency will face. But also I am proud to be part of “Team Clare” and to do what I can to make a difference in the lives of those we serve every day.

Would you like to send Jim a message and a virtual high five for getting through his first 90 days? Send him an email at jim.seas@clarehousing.org.