One of the main reasons we started JUST IN CASE®, Inc. was to empower women to make choices that would regain their sense of self – to help them remember that they are important – that they matter. Along the way, we have been fortunate to come into contact with some very special people. They inspire us. And we hope they inspire you to take control of your life…to hold the power…to chose you first.
Sometimes the most powerful way one can turns one’s life around, is by helping someone else to do the same thing. This is certainly true of our First JIC Spotlight On guest, Glynis Simmons.
Glynis, is the Assistant Director for Women’s Care at GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) in New York City.
GMHC, celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, has much to celebrate. The world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS Prevention, care and advocacy, GMHC has built decades of dedication and expertise in the fight to end AIDS and uplift the lives of all affected by this epidemic.
Ms Simmons has been an integral part of this mission for over a decade, especially in her work with women. As Assistant Director of the Women’s Care, Prevention and Support Services, Glynis is responsible for Community Outreach and campaign efforts.
“This is my calling”, she says, “but it wasn’t always like this.” I am proud to say I am 20 years in recovery. I was one of those who had to test the water with drugs. I didn’t know the water was so hot until I actually submerged my whole body into the tub. Putting my finger in it didn’t help. I had to get all in the tub before I realized it was hot!”
When asked what inciting event caused her to re-think her life and to get sober, Glynis paused and then, clearly emotional, answered in almost a whisper…”I wanted my kids back in my life.”
Any mother reading this will understand the power of our children’s voices. “I have two sons and love both my boys, but it was my oldest who really made the difference in me turning my life around. My recovery date is October 5, 1992. I know that because it was then that, when I asked what he wanted for his birthday, my son answered, ‘I don’t want you smoking that stuff anymore.’ His birthday is October 10 and I was sober by his birthday that year and have been ever since.”
And now it is her turn to help turn the lives around of the women she serves in her community through GMHC.
“You have to learn to love yourself is our message” says Simmons. “We have a game we play at our health fairs – it is a wheel we call “Jeopardy” – with different subjects like Safe Sex, HIV/AIDS, STD’s, and each topic comes with a question. If you answer the question correctly when you spin, you get a prize. One of those prizes is a JUST IN CASE® compact.
One woman didn’t want to play. When she finally did – she hit “Safe Sex.” She said ’I don’t believe in safe sex. I’ve been with my husband x amount of years.’ I said, “I don’t know you and I don’t know your husband, and I mean no disrespect, but, do you know where your husband is?”
I gave her one of the compacts – and said…just love yourself – look into that mirror and say “I am beautiful. I matter”. A couple of months later I’m at the Supermarket and she walks up to me and she says, ‘I want to thank you.’
I turned around, and said Thank you?’ ‘Yes’, she said, ‘a few months ago you gave me a compact – with condoms inside. I found out that my husband was cheating. I remembered what you said. I opened the compact, looked into the mirror and said to myself – ‘I am beautiful and I matter.’ And I was able to use the condom that night…and…can you tell me where you got those so I can get one for my daughter?’
The latest GMHC campaign message is Women’s Services ROCK because they are provided For Women by Women.
The work of the Women’s Institute embraces the acknowledgement that AIDS is a woman’s issue.
Women’s Care goes into Community and works first hand with women in need, with education programs, health fairs with special impact in their outreach.
“The impact we have, me and my staff, is that we are part of the community, we look like the community – so us going into the community and having heart to heart talks– is more effective because we just get down and dirty with them. We let them know we re right there with them. They see you in the neighborhood and they know definitely you are part of that.
“The power of working here is that when we do an event and the next day you’re coming to work – you don’t even get far enough to be at work – and you meet somebody who attended your event. They stop you and say ‘Glynis, I want to thank you for the event yesterday. I got so much information and I really like everything that happened that day.’”
“That’s why I do it. One person, you know? I didn’t even get to work and I got a ‘Thank you’. Just to know the women appreciate what we do for them. And they look forward to our events. Hearing this is what gives me, and my staff the driven power behind our work. Especially due to the fact we know there is yet to be a cure for this disease. We still find some way to go on.
That’s the blessing.”
And that is GMHC’s blessing – to have a woman as dedicated and driven as Glynis Simmons as part of their Director’s staff, continuing and growing the great efforts of GMHC’s first 30 years.
We applaud GMHC for the work they do in the fight against AIDS and their prevention and education efforts. We are proud to be supplying them with our JUST IN CASE® compacts – and helping to spread the word that you matter; to love yourself enough to be safe.
And we applaud Glynis Simmons – A woman of great courage and conviction and an agent for change in the area of Women’s Care through GMHC. Now a proud grandmother of two beautiful girls, Glynis is her family’s inspiration and she is ours, at JIC, as well.
When asked one final question: If you could be a super Hero who would it be and what would be your super power?
Glynis answered with excitement, “I would be Super Woman! And my super power would be:
“The Power to Cure HIV.”
Somehow I wasn’t a bit surprised by her generous answer in wanting to care for others. This is who she is and what makes her special.
To learn more about Glynis’s team at Women’s Care and GMHC, or how you can donate, volunteer, tour the agency, or become a client, visit www.gmhc.org
446 W 33rd. Street
New York, New York 10001-2601