Thomas Dross, an out Conshohocken native, died in 2012, and committed to leaving a legacy for HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations.
Longtime friends and managers of Dross’ estate, David Perry and Alfredo Casuso, gave a $1-million gift last year to the AIDS Emergency Fund, a San Francisco-based organization, and this year Mazzoni Center also benefited from Dross’ generosity.
Mazzoni Center received a $100,000 gift from the Dross estate. Mazzoni Center executive director Nurit Shein said the money will support the center’s legal-services program, as well as its HIV/AIDS and youth programs.
Shein said Dross’ gift ranks among the largest from a single contributor.
“It is definitely one of the biggest donations in the last few years and the biggest from someone within the state,” she said.
Perry and Casuso told PGN that $2.3 million was distributed among 11 organizations, including Mazzoni Center.
Dross was raised in Conshohocken and received his bachelor’s degree at University of Pennsylvania. In early 2012, he died of a heart attack at age 71. He was living in California at the time of his death.
Casuso and Perry, a couple since 1998, were friends of Dross’ for about 15 years.
The couple said Dross’ gift reflects his kind spirit.
“Tom was a kind and generous man and of that generation which had seen so many die from HIV/AIDS before their time,” they said. “He truly wanted to give back to his community.”
Shein said donations like Dross’ help promote the need for funding for HIV/AIDS causes, especially for efforts to connect underprivileged communities with care.
“HIV/AIDS is not over and we are seeing very much a shift in government funding for HIV,” she said. “Even though the Affordable Care Act will have many more Americans insured, Pennsylvania still does not have Medicaid expansion. Many HIV-positive uninsured individuals are young people who make some money but not enough and can’t buy health insurance. So I think keeping HIV awareness up, and not just for prevention but for payment for care, is important.”
Perry and Casuso said they are eager for Dross’ donations to help both current and future generations.
“We hope that these donations will not only help people currently living with HIV/AIDS but also raise awareness and remind people that the fight against this disease is far from over,” they said.
Other beneficiaries include the AIDS Emergency Fund, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The Richmond-Ermet AIDS Foundation, Openhouse, FamilyLink, the AIDS Interfaith Chapel at Grace Cathedral, Clinica Esperanza, LGBT Senior Study, Food for Thought and the Desert AIDS Project.
For more information on Mazzoni Center, visit www.mazzonicenter.org.