|Albemarle Park, Southeast corner||York AIDS Memorial Garden||
since 1 December 1996
At Albemarle Park in York City, there's a weather-worn red brick engraved with the words, "All my boys are safe now." This particular brick bears no date. We don't know the identities of the boys to whom it refers. But the brick is surrounded by other red rectangles memorializing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — so many of whom were born in the late 1950s and died in the late 1990s or early 2000s. In a corner garden otherwise silent about its purpose, one of the rectangles betrays the intent of the garden's original planters. "In memory of the children who have passed away due to HIV," it reads.
Nearly two decades ago, a coalition of York County organizations banded together to establish a place to remember the lives lost to AIDS and the fight of those who live with the disease. They built the Serenity Garden of Hope in a corner of the park near the intersection of South Albemarle and Edison streets.
Since the project, the medical community's ability to treat HIV-positive individuals has improved significantly. A diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, said Carrie Prowell, a care coordinator for Family First Health. Still, the disease continues to spread. In York County alone, Family First Health is currently serving about 600 HIV-positive patients, Prowell said. Prowell, whose job includes HIV testing, said new diagnoses are made "all the time." "We say, 'Listen, you come to your doctors' appointments. You get the medicines you need,'" she said. "It's manageable." But HIV remains a chronic illness requiring constant diligence to prolong a patient's life.
And that's where the importance of peace, hope and reflection comes in. In December 2013, Family First Health "adopted" the Serenity Garden of Hope, which hadn't been properly maintained for years. They've since cleaned up the garden, added a plaque and developed plans to spruce it up more. "We wanted to have this area as a space for our clients and their families," Prowell said. "Right now, you wouldn't really know that it's an AIDS memorial." With help from Hively Landscaping, volunteers will gather to plant new flowers. In the future, Family First Health plans to order new bricks honoring people lost to AIDS and the advocates who work on their behalf.
Photo: Carrie Prowell of Family First Health holds a rendering of what the AIDS Memorial Garden will look like while sitting among the flowers at Albermarle Park in York City Thursday.
Photo (C) Randy Flaum York Dispatch
25 April 2014
Erin James, York, PA