STAR celebrates 30 years of addressing health disparities in Baltimore

Sisters Together And Reaching, Inc. (STAR), a faith-based, nonprofit community organization that provides spiritual support, direct services, and prevention education to HIV/AIDS infected, and affected African-American women and men, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. And many who have worked with the organization like Randi Woods, say the celebration wouldn’t be possible without STAR’s founder, the Rev. Debra Hickman.

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Aisha Butler/Jazzy Studios

Rev. Debra Hickman, founder and CEO of STAR

“She has employed 300 people over 30 years, and she’s created space for nurses, doctors, and public health students to gain real life experience,” said Woods, a registered nurse who serves as the nonprofit’s senior director of community care coordination. Woods added that Hickman, affectionately known as “Rev. Debbie,” has formed relationships within the community and large health systems.

STAR counts as a community faith- based nonprofit that Hickman founded in 1991 to serve the Greater Baltimore HIV/AIDS community.

Since its inception, STAR has been a premiere advocate addressing health disparities among African American men, women, and their families living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases in Baltimore City.

Located in the heart of Charm City, STAR has been a service provider of comprehensive care coordination and support services to thousands of individuals and families – creating healthy generational behaviors withstanding time.

Woods noted that STAR services include, but aren’t limited to, preventative testing, health promotion prevention education, patient advocacy, and comprehensive, holistic care management.

“Through time, STAR has developed multiple collaborative partnerships with traditional and non-traditional partners to continue working effectively with high-risk communities addressing traditional and non-traditional aspects of living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases,” Woods stated. “Along with our partners, our future legacy of community engagement, prevention education, and community impact will serve as a pillar for every person serviced through our programs.”

Born and raised in Baltimore, Hickman’s parents migrated from the South searching for work and more opportunities for their children.

As the oldest of two children, Hickman learned early how to handle business affairs as her parents had limited education.

“When Rev. Debbie started STAR, she was working a full-time job and was leading a very small team of women volunteers from churches around the city,” Woods said. “Since that time, she has remained committed to advocating for justice in healthcare for the men and women of Baltimore City.”

Hickman has served on the Mayors HIV Commission and is a two-time appointee by the White House Secretary of Health to serve on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Heath Resources Service Administration Advisory Council (CHAC).

She also has worked as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 1999, Hickman was selected to be among the first 40 CDC Leadership Scholars. Under the leadership of former Mayor Martin O’Malley and past City Council President Sheila Dixon, Hickman was appointed to serve as a Commissioner for the Baltimore City HIV Commission and recently appointed by the White House Secretary of Health and Human Service Office to the Centers for Disease Control/Health Resource Services Administration Advisory Board.

“Rev. Hickman’s favorite scripture is Psalm 34, and she attempts to carry this scripture out through a life that truly blesses the Lord by following his commands and sharing His love wherever she goes,” Woods said. “Rev. Hickman is known as a visionary and her motto is, ‘Be Forward Focused and Not Past Possessed.’”

To learn more about STAR, visit www.sisterstogetherandreaching.org.