Holiday card project comforts those jailed because of their HIV status

Milford. Cindy Stine started the Sero Holiday Card Project when she realized that “many who are incarcerated because of their HIV status need to know they are not monsters and they are not forgotten during the holidays.”

08 Jan 2020 | 04:12

It is said that if you want something done and done well, ask the busiest person you know. That would be Cindy Stine.

As project coordinator of the Sero Project (seroproject.com), she coordinates a number of different projects, all promoting Sero’s mission of ending inappropriate criminal prosecutions of people living with HIV. This includes ending criminal prosecution of people for non-disclosure of their HIV status as well. (See U=U: Undetectable = Untransmittable at HIV i-Base.)

Sero’s work includes raising public awareness through community education efforts and outreach to advocate for reform in individual states throughout the country, promoting the message that “HIV is not a crime.”

Milford Mayor Sean Strub, writer and founder of POZ Magazine and an AIDS activist, is the executive director of Sero.

Sero also produces a magazine, "Turn it Up, Staying Strong," which is sent to 30,000 individuals at 10,000 facilities. Those receiving this magazine find it very helpful. Stine is also co-organizer of the biennial HIV is Not a Crime National Training Academy.

However, the Sero Holiday Card Project is one close to Stine’s heart. She started this project of sending holiday cards in 2012 when she realized that “many who are incarcerated because of their HIV status need to know they are not monsters and they are not forgotten during the holidays.”

Stine wrote to people across the country to encourage them to send cards. She started with 300 volunteers getting their cards from Sero. Now, they have more than 1,000 cards being sent to a variety of facilities across the country.

“It’s not easy since each facility has their own rules; white envelopes, no glitter, no glue, no markers, no stamps," she said.

The volunteers send their cards to Stine, and she checks them for adherence to the various prison rules. Then she sends them on. If people want to continue sending cards or letters to those who are incarcerated, they do so on their own.

Shining a light

Stine started out as a financial analyst in New York City, work she did for 23 years. She then worked for 14 years as an educational outreach coordinator for a crisis center dealing with domestic violence and sexual abuse, giving her the perfect background and empathy for the job she is doing.

She is involved in many community organizations and Milford projects. Stine is the 2019 recipient of the Barbara J. Buchanan Award for community service from the Greater Pike Foundation.

She recently wrote an email to those who participated in the 2019 Sero Holiday Card Project.

"Their kindness is priceless," she said.

Stine included a letter (with permission) from Terrell in Virginia. Here's an excerpt:

To everybody who took the time out of their day to shine some light inside of a sometimes dark envoirment... Because receiving those cards doing the holiday season uplifted my soul as well as warm my heart to no I'm not alone inside...You all gave me hope In a time when I felt hopeless and inspired me when I really wasn’t feeling inspirational ... Thank you all for your love support and understanding because the little piece of compassion you sent change my day and gave me the strength to continue on this life changing experience....Love Terrell...Becoming positive I Became a positive minded.

Cards may be sent all year-round at various holidays or even on non-holidays. If you are interested in sending a card to someone imprisoned for their HIV status, email Stine at cindy.stine@seroproject.com.