Bartenbach operated an Internet cafe for the past eight years in Seattle before moving back to his hometown of Indianapolis earlier this year to be closer to family. He took the reins at the Damien Center in August.The story completely misses what the Star reported on back on October 15, 2002 about the agency that Bartenbach had run. "Indiana's only statewide organization that provides financial help to people with HIV and AIDS has mismanaged hundreds of thousands of dollars, with devastating consequences for sick people," the Star wrote then. A federal audit eventually concluded that the Indiana State Department of Health owed the US government nearly $800,000 in funds that were inappropriately distributed to about a dozen groups by AIDServe Indiana. The auditors complained that they could not find proper documentation for an additional $5.3 million and recommended that the state and the US Department of Health and Human Services continue trying to find or rebuild the paperwork to show if the money was spent correctly. Should people wonder about Bartenbach now being put in charge of the Damien Center? You bet.
Before working with the disease, he was known locally for founding and operating Bartenbach grocery stores in Indianapolis from 1984 to 1993.
He sold the stores as national grocery chains began coming to the city. At the same time, as a gay man, he said many of his friends were dying from AIDS. He got involved with a group that delivered food to the homes of people with HIV/AIDS. From there, he began working with other such groups.
"The number of people that I have met over the years that have died . . . it seemed like we were going to a funeral weekly," Bartenbach said. "I went through a period early in life you expect to go through in old age."
He said the disease has changed from his early days of service, no longer mostly restricted to gay men. Now, it's spread to minority groups such as blacks and Latinos.
Fortunately, medical treatments have advanced.
"When I first got into this, we had been assisting people to die in 36 months or less," he said. "Now, we're teaching them how to live for 36 years or longer."
Monday, November 30, 2009
Damien Center's Financial Struggles
The Star's Chris Sikich has a story today on the Damien Center and its struggle to raise money in a tight economy. The organization recently hired Tom Bartenbach to serve as interim executive director for the HIV/AIDS service agency, a hiring that really turned heads of some people who remember his stint as executive director of AIDServe Indiana nearly a decade ago, which went bankrupt. Sikich describes Bartenbach without reference to his past service with that agency: