“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong’, it helps others do the same.’
- Gloria Steinem
Cyndee Burton was working as an ICU nurse in the 80’s, when she began to notice a growing trend of sick, young men coming in, only to be sent home to die following a diagnosis of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). In her own words, she described them as, “some of the sickest patients I had ever taken care of. They were treated so poorly by so many, even their families and some of the medical staff. It sat with me for a really long time.”
The images of these patients in distress and the poor treatment they faced from all sides led Cyndee to say to herself over and over that someone has to step up and do something, and finally, her faith and dedication to helping these patients-in-need led her to action. In 1996, Cyndee would go on to set in motion the founding of what would become Matthew 25 AIDS Services, Inc., (initially as a volunteer organization) with the assistance of Zion United Church of Christ in Henderson, KY to make a difference in the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS within the community and the congregation.
Of course, Matthew 25 is now a proud, fully incorporated organization with a wide service area and supports over 600 patients across the Tri-state area. But none of that success came easily. When asked about the difficulties and barriers she faced from the start, Cyndee had this to say, ‘Yes, many, many barriers. Space, money, stigma, medical expertise, just to name a few. I just did not see them as something that could not be overcome. God’s grace I suppose. I just saw them as challenges and found ways to manage them.’ She continued by describing the various methods she used to overcome these challenges, which included becoming well-versed in grant-writing, the Ryan White program, support from amazing folks along the way, and how eventually the necessary funds and space came.
Over the years since its founding, Matthew 25 has expanded significantly from the small garage it used to occupy behind ZUCC, to a large facility that it has now had to expand upon even more on the outskirts of downtown Henderson. Beyond the main office, Matthew 25 has opened a full-time office in Evansville and Bowling Green, as well as an office in Owensboro that is open every Thursday and every-other Tuesday. Perhaps even more impressive than the physical growth, are the services Matthew 25 has expanded to offer. Due to participation in the Ryan White program, Matthew 25 has been granted abilities to provide a wide swathe of services to patients and persons within the Tri-state area that are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. ‘I believe without Matthew 25; many more persons would have died in our Tri-state. Many, many more would have never received a test. Many would have gone without food, medications, housing, transportation, support, and acceptance.’
Cyndee has spent the last 20 years as the official head of Matthew 25 AIDS Services as an 501(c)(3) organization, and in that time, thousands have been tested, fed, hundreds of patients enrolled in care, and viral suppression rates among the patients of Matthew 25 are above the national average, around 92%! To say her leadership has been anything short of extraordinary would be a major understatement. However, Cyndee has decided to pass her leadership mantle on to our current Director of Development, Courtney Woolfork. Over the next year and a half, Cyndee’s focus will be on making sure the transition from her to Courtney is smooth, all the while making sure Matthew 25 expands its prevention and treatment efforts, including the newly established Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) program. She also wants to make sure that Matthew 25 continues to focus on centering care and efforts to best serve the ever-evolving needs of patients, including substance abuse assistance.
Matthew 25 has been pivotal in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Tri-state area, and has made it their mission to support, educate, and treat those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. They recognize that HIV/AIDS is a real disease affecting real people. It is a major focus to fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, getting testing, and asking for or using preventative methods.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free and confidential HIV test, please call (866) 607-6590. You can also email email@example.com for more!
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