Positive Opportunities, Inc. (PO), founded by Frank Pizzoli, has a mission to provide HIV-related employment training, technical assistance, program development, and client services to individuals and agencies. PO is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) organization. PO is a private sector, nonprofit, professional service rather than a “one-size-fits-all” public agency, therefore they can customize services to meet customers’ needs. PO’s service does not duplicate any existing HIV/AIDS service within Dauphin and Cumberland counties. PO empowers HIV-infected individuals to stay employed, return to work, and/or learn new skills in order to gain employment. All participation is voluntary.
PO began in 1997 with a $5,000 grant from Bristol Myers Squibb (PO raised and added an additional $2,000) to assess need for HIV-employment related services. Based on needs assessment data, in 1998 PO received a $9,800 grant (PO raised and added $400 to grant) from Greater Harrisburg Foundation and the National AIDS Fund to operate a one-year pilot project. In 1999, Roche Laboratories provided a $3,500 grant. In 1999, PO became a formal subcontractor of services through the AIDS Planning Coalition of South Central PA and the AIDS Community Alliance, serving seven Central PA counties.
By “returning to work” HIV-infected individuals, PO demonstrates a successful model to regional, state, and federal HIV-related social service programs as they worked with “return to work” issues surrounding HIV disease.
The community benefit of PO is that employed individuals pay taxes rather than absorbing public funds. Community agencies, often overwhelmed when social problems arise, are offered a “tested” workable model to imitate and innovate. PO assembled various program components from other Foundation-based organizations nationwide and re-assembled them into its Pilot Project. There are similar, but not identical, programs elsewhere.
Based on Pilot Project data funded by the Greater Harrisburg Foundation and the National AIDS Fund, of 20 referrals made to PO during 1998/99, 10 clients have successfully been “returned to work” via training, job coaching, resume development and job placement. Total funds raised from inception in 1997 to date are $24,300. By June 2000 when all 10 employed clients had completed one-year of employment, they will have collectively paid $23,400 in federal taxes – or slightly more than it costs to market test and demonstrate the Pilot Project (based on average hourly wage of $8.00). Currently, PO has 11 active clients.
Since inception, PO has provided model start-up initiatives and technical assistance, training, and direct services to 19 Federal Government HIV Project Officers, PA Department of Health, Gateway Employment Services, AIDS Planning Coalition of South Central PA, AIDS Community Alliance, Berks County Behavioral Health, PA AIDS Education & Training Centers, Behavioral Health Managed Care, and PA AIDS Training Conference, Delaware AIDS Consortium.