AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

A Recap of Last Night’s First-Annual Groundbreaker Awards!

Posted by Sunny Bjerk , April 25, 2013

A Recap of Last Night’s First-Annual Groundbreaker Awards!

The Groundbreaker Award honorees: (left-to-right) Russell Hicks, James Huniford, and Andy Cohen. Photography by Gary Gershoff, Getty Images

Last night was our first-annual Groundbreaker Awards, where we honored some of Housing Works’ greatest supporters and their significant contribution to the fight to end HIV/AIDS and homelessness in New York City.

The event took place at the Metropolitan Pavilion, where guests gathered for an exclusive look at the 62 room vignettes featured in tonight’s annual fundraiser Design on a Dime, mingling over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prepared by The Works Catering—Housing Works’ catering business. Most importantly, however, the attendees turned out for the Awards to give their support to Housing Works’ and our work on behalf of homeless people and those living with HIV/AIDS.

The Groundbreaker honorees are: Andy Cohen, Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Development and Talent; Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon President of Content and Development; and interior designer, James Huniford.

The impossibly handsome Mark Consuelos introduced his friend Andy Cohen, where Andy spoke passionately about Housing Works’ mission to help New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. “I started cleaning out my closet for Housing Works’ Thrift Shops on Yom Kippur, and it’s so easy to help the organization’s mission to end AIDS and Homelessness.” He added, “Being a part of their organization any way you can—donating, shopping, volunteering—is like a rite of passage for all New Yorkers.” He also thanked the Bravo Network for sponsoring the event and purchasing a table.

Honoree Russell Hicks was introduced by Marva Smalls (Spongebob Square Pants also made a cameo) who gave Russell such a warm welcome he felt “like it was my mom introducing me—you brought tears to my eyes!” Russell talked of the childhood friends he has lost to AIDS and how Design on a Dime, and now the Groundbreaker Awards, mean so much to him. “I love Housing Works because of their 360-degree approach to helping people. They don’t just provide housing and healthcare but job training to folks as well, which is so imperative to help them build a new foundation in their lives.” Russell also spoke about his company’s volunteer work at Housing Works. “Each year at Viacom we take a day off to give back to the community, and we call this Viacommunity Day, and this year, fifteen of us volunteered at the Brooklyn Processing and Distribution Center for the Thrift Shops, and it was so wonderful to know what we were helping to accomplish.” He urged attendees new to Housing Works’ to get involved. “It’s so easy to help; open up your closet and just donate—that suit from 1980 will look really great on a 22 year-old from Brooklyn!”

The last honoree was James Huniford, who was affectionately called “Ford” by his friends. As one of the pioneering designer’s at Housing Works’ first Design on a Dime, James was thrilled to see how far the fundraiser has truly come. “I remember when the first Design on a Dime was held at the 23rd Street Thrift Shop, with maybe five designers. But now, if you take a look around tonight, I am so moved and touched to see so many people I look up to and love who are here tonight to support Housing Works and Design on a Dime.” He thanked all of the designers in the room, including Genevieve Gorder, Evette Rios, and Sabrina Soto, a few of this year’s Design on a Dime co-chairs, stating, “Design on a Dime wouldn’t be where it was today without all of the designers here tonight who took the time to attend and help this organization and those living with HIV/AIDS.”

The Groundbreaker Awards proved to be a true success, with over 300 seated dinner guests and a rousing live auction by Sara Friedlander from Christie’s, serving as a exciting precursor tonight’s Design on a Dime.

All of the Groundbreaker Awards proceeds will go toward raising crucial funds for Housing Works’ Hull Street Residence, a new housing development in Brooklyn for homeless adults living with HIV/AIDS. The site will begin breaking ground in 2014.

Photos from last night’s Awards are still trickling in, but many can be found at

Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.

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