Health Initiative pushes back Fall Garden Party to address Obamacare enrollment

The Garden Party is the Health Initiative’s largest annual fundraiser. Last year’s event raised some $20,000 after expenses. Ellis said The Health Initiative is planning a spring event but urges donors to continue to give in 2013.

“No one truly understands yet what this process is going to look like,” Ellis added. “But we do know that it’s going to be very complicated. If our focus is ensuring the health of our community, we need to be there, walking folks through the process.”

James Parker Sheffield, director of organizational development for The Health Initiative, said outreach work and preparation for open enrollment left the organization little time to plan its annual fundraiser.

The idea of moving the party into late-summer was discussed, but in the end, The Health Initiative felt that its priority in the coming months must be the Affordable Care Act.

“It becomes one of those things, we can do a party and have it not be a very good party, and possibly not have our work completed that needs to be completed, or we can move the party to the spring and focus on doing community work that needs to get done,” Sheffield said.

“There’s a whole set of work we have to do just to understand it better and to understand what community resources are going to be offered,” he added. “Part of our work is going to be figuring out what our resources are.”

Despite moving its largest annual fundraiser to Spring 2014, Sheffield said he hopes donors will continue to give in 2013.

“The big thing around this that when we made the shift to become The Health Initiative and become a state-wide organization, this is the first thing that has an impact across the state. We can’t not be there to help people. A lot of people will be left on their own if we don’t make an effort to do this. It impacts so many people,” he said. “It’s not just folks with lower income or folks who are uninsured that are affected by the this.”

See a letter The Health Initiative sent to donors and supporters announcing the change in dates below:

I’d like to share some important news with you.  While typically June would have us in full Garden Party mode, the Health Initiative must take a different path this year. Nationwide, healthcare is undergoing a significant overhaul, and helping LGBTQ Georgians during this transition is imperative. After much consideration, our board and staff have concluded that moving the Garden Party to the spring of 2014 and focusing current time and energy on community work is the best use of organizational resources.

We are very proud of our annual event and know that many community members look forward to it each year as an opportunity to connect with friends, celebrate health, and remember those we’ve lost. While we know that the 2013 Garden Party will be missed, our hope is that our supporters will understand the importance of our shift in priorities.

Weighing in at over 900 pages, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most significant restructure of the U.S. healthcare system since 1965.  With the most major changes outlined in the ACA quickly approaching, the Health Initiative is preparing to conduct a statewide education and assistance program. This effort is geared toward the estimated 30,000 uninsured LGBTQ Georgians and our community’s countless small business owners, self-employed, self-insured, and under-insured individuals throughout the state.

The federal online Health Insurance Marketplace launches an Open Enrollment period Oct. 1 – March 31, and the changing prices, plans and qualifications are complicated. The Health Initiative will travel the state to ensure that LGBTQ Georgians are well informed and help individuals and small business owners navigate the system to enroll in health plans. Our commitment to reach everyone who needs us during this time is a massive, yet extremely necessary undertaking. We will devote our energy to this crucial effort now and celebrate our success at the 2014 Garden Party.

While we won’t be organizing a 2013 Garden Party, our hopes are that we can continue to count on your support. The task at hand is significant and we need your help. The Health Initiative is exploring grant opportunities to pay for our Open Enrollment education and assistance efforts, but regardless of whether or not funding is awarded, we know we must still do this work. These changes impact the vast majority of LGBTQ Georgians, including me.

As a self-insured individual with children, I found myself overwhelmed with what this means for my own family.  Learning about ACA’s Open Enrollment has been tedious and confusing at times, but I find comfort in knowing that soon the Health Initiative will be helping people navigate the system without stress or anxiety. Making a donation today will help ensure the success of our efforts to reach thousands of LGBTQ Georgians, including families like mine and possibly yours.

As a Health Initiative supporter, we encourage you to match your previous gift, consider a larger donation, or simply give what you can. Every dollar matters and every contribution is appreciated. For your convenience, a donation form is enclosed with this letter. If you have questions about the Garden Party or our involvement in the Open Enrollment process, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  My door is always open and I want to make sure you have all the information you need to understand our work and feel good about your investment.

Peace to you,

Linda Ellis, MEd, MDiv, LPC
Executive Director


Top photo: The Health Initiative’s Exective Director Linda Ellis (file)