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AIDS Awareness Church

INTRO:

Hollywood United Methodist Church is thriving. The congregation has grown 60% in three years, with an average age of 38. But this church has also lost many over the past 30 years. As Kim Riemland reports, the church's mission and red ribbons show support for those living with HIV.

SCRIPT:

(Locator: Hollywood, California)

One block off the Walk of Fame, in the heart of the Los Angeles entertainment district, stands Hollywood United Methodist Church.

Its two huge red ribbons speak loudly to those passing through the second busiest intersection in the county.

Beverly Freeman, Member since 1960: "We stand for something for a town that is very transient;regardless of who you are, you are welcome here."

Richard Settle, Volunteer: "We put it up in 1993. There were about 20 of us that hoisted the ribbons up on the side of the tower. &ellipsis;and it's a beacon to the HIV community that they are welcome here."

That wasn't easy in the 1980s at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic.

Beverly Freeman: "Fear grew, and a lot of people ran, a lot of people condemned. You didn't even want to be in the presence of a personwith AIDS."

(Beverly Freeman looking at memorial plaques) "These were good people. Good, good people."

In the narthex, near plaques honoring those lost in war, stands one honoring the 35 people from this congregation who died from AIDS-related illness.

Beverly Freeman: "I haven't had any AIDS in my own family, but this is my family. And it's been awful. What a blessing it is to be able to open the L.A. Times now and not see obituary after obituary of a person dying of AIDS."

The Rev. Kathy Cooper-Ledesma, Hollywood United Methodist: "When we first started our AIDS ministries here at Hollywood, we were doing a lot of triage of just meeting people's basic needs. Those needs are now being met by service providers and people are now, with new medications, are living longer lives."

Once a month, prepare and give away food to patients at the county hospital clinic called 5p21 named after the cellular protein destroyed by HIV. The clinic treats more than 3,000 people a year.

April Moore, Hollywood United Methodist: "People are waiting hours for treatment. Those people also include kids, over 300 children who are down there. They can go all day without having anything to eat, or a warm hug, or a smile."

Ric Loya, Chairman, Hollywood United Methodist: "There's kind of a back area where they have what's called the infusion clinic where patients are being treated with IV, and we can go in there and serve the patients directly. We've had a few patients who want to pray, so sure, we can pray, we're Methodists. And we'll go back there and pray with some of the patients."

The AIDS ministry also decorates teddy bears and gives up to 400 gifts to children with HIV each Christmas.

Carolyn Berger, Volunteer: "It's just doing God's work. This is what God wants us to do is to help everyone. It doesn't make any difference what color you are, what age you are, what disease you have. We're all God's children."

Linda Mikkelson: "This church is about do what Jesus did. And that's what it stands for, that's what this church stands for."

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For more information on the HIV/AIDS ministry, contact Hollywood United Methodist Church at 323-874-2104.

Posted: June 2, 2011