Cascade AIDS Project is the largest and oldest HIV/AIDS service organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. With a staff of 61 and a volunteer corps of over 800 individuals, CAP manages a diverse array of programs and an annual budget of over $6 million. CAP’s mission is to prevent HIV infections, support and empower people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, and eliminate HIV/AIDS-related stigma.

In 1983, in response to the emerging AIDS epidemic, Cascade AIDS Project was created as a committee of Phoenix Rising, a Portland organization providing counseling services to the gay community. In December of 1985, CAP’s growth merited its incorporation as a separate organization, and in 1986 CAP was granted IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status. That same year, CAP merged with two other AIDS-related community organizations, Community Health and Essential Support Services (CHESS) and the Brinker Fund.

CAP’s two largest annual fund-raising events, AIDS Walk Portland (starting in 1986) and the CAP Art Auction (starting in 1989) have raised millions of dollars and heightened awareness of the epidemic, while enlisting tens of thousands of community members and artists in furthering CAP’s mission.

One of CAP’s earliest signature programs was the Personal Active Listener (PAL) Project, which trained volunteers to provide a variety of in-home support services to persons living with HIV/AIDS. CAP’s current offerings include programs focused on teens, Latinos, the gay community, individuals and families living with HIV, and the thousands of individuals who contact CAP’s statewide AIDS/STD hotline each year.  Current services include Pivot (formerly the Men’s Wellness Center), a drop-in community center for men into men; community outreach and HIV/STD testing; housing and a wide variety of support services; and the all-volunteer CAP Speakers Bureau, which raises awareness and fights HIV-related stigma.

While Brown McDonald (CAP’s first Executive Director), Michael Kaplan (CAP’s most recent outgoing Executive Director), and Judith Rizzio (CAP’s current Manager of Volunteer Resources) are singled out for special recognition as part of CAP’s Queer Heroes NW honor, the organization’s ongoing success is due to the hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers who have provided decades of dedicated service.

As part of CAP’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2010-2011, 31 individuals key to CAP’s past and present success sat for video oral history interviews. Participants included 2012 Queer Heroes NW honorees Steve Fulmer and Kathleen Saadat and 2013 honorees Brown McDonald and Judith Rizzio. The complete oral histories project may be viewed on the CAP Archives YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/CAParchives.

To view a recent Public Service Announcement overview of CAP’s programs and services, visit http://vimeo.com/29849431

CAP’s main YouTube channel is available at http://www.youtube.com/user/CascadeAIDSProject

Judith Rizzio

Judith Rizzio has served as Manager of Volunteer Resources at Cascade AIDS Project for over five years. Each year, CAP relies on the dedication of over 800 individual volunteers, donating over 29,000 hours, to further its mission.

Judith’s professional association with CAP began with her work as a consultant, creating the organization’s men’s outreach volunteer program in 1993. The same year, she co-created one of CAP’s longest-running programs, Teen2Teen, which provided 20 years of HIV/AIDS peer outreach and education by teens, for teens.

Prior to joining CAP’s staff, Judith had already dedicated over 20 years of service to HIV/AIDS organizations, including more than sixteen years as Director of Volunteers and Director of Community Relations at Our House of Portland. When Judith joined Our House in 1989, the organization initially focused on providing palliative care and grief counseling to those living with, and dying from AIDS. Judith worked at Our House during a period which saw over 300 of its clients and residents die of the disease.

Judith’s roots as a political performer and activist in the Gay Rights Movement date to the mid-1970’s, when she trained with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. In 1976 she moved to Portland to join the Family Circus Theater Collective, which she describes as “a political theater company that spoke to social issues with an emphasis on Gay Rights.” During this period, many of her gay friends from the theater community began to die of AIDS, some before the disease was even named. She lost her first friend to the epidemic in 1979. She describes her career since that time as one of dedication “to do something about this stigmatized disease,” helping many of her friends “live and some die with care, love, fun and dignity.”

Other HIV/AIDS organizations and programs which have benefited from Judith’s energy and compassion include the Committee for AIDS Education, Ryan White Planning Council Title II, the Oregon State Penitentiary’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Program, the Oregon Multicultural AIDS Coalition, Danzine (a sex workers’ HIV/AIDS program), the Women’s Intercommunity AIDS Resource program, Project Quest’s Women of Wisdom, the Black Faith HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Urban League HIV/AIDS Advisory Committee, and Africa AIDS Response. In 1991, she co-founded Positive Approach, an HIV/AIDS educational firm, which provided three years of training and educational services to the community. In 1998, Judith received the Spirit of Pride Award for her work in the field of HIV/AIDS.

To help commemorate CAP’s 25th anniversary, during 2010-2011 Judith created and managed the CAP Archives Project, bringing together a committee of volunteers to collect, archive, catalog, and record CAP’s history of service to those affected by the epidemic. As part of the project, video oral histories were recorded of 31 individuals instrumental to CAP’s past and present success. Judith conducted most of the oral history interviews and sat for an interview herself.

Judith describes herself as a happily married queer woman, a mother of four sons, and soon to be a Nonna  (grandmother in Italian).

Judith’s complete CAP Archives oral history interview can be viewed HERE.

Michael Kaplan

Michael Kaplan served as Executive Director of Cascade AIDS Project from 2008-2012. During his tenure at CAP, he oversaw an increase in revenue through highly successful fund-raising events and development efforts, an expansion of CAP’s programs and services, and a re-organization resulting in reduced operating costs. Under Kaplan’s leadership, CAP received its first-ever rating as one of the ten most admired non-profits in Oregon, as well as being selected as one of the 100 best non-profits to work for in Oregon for three consecutive years.

Michael has dedicated his career to organizations serving the LGBTQ community and those living with HIV/AIDS, including membership and leadership positions on several Boards of Directors. Prior to CAP, he held a variety of senior management positions at the Academy for Educational Development (AED), including Vice President for International HIV/AIDS Programs. He currently serves on the Board of Funders Concerned About AIDS.  In service to the LGBTQ community, he has held Directorship positions at the National Youth Advocacy Coalition in Washington, D.C., and District 202 in Minneapolis, MN, an organization he helped create.

Kaplan describes his passion for his work as being “grounded in his own experience of living for more than 20 years as an out gay HIV-positive man.” He ended his successful directorship of CAP in November 2012, departing for a position as President and CEO of AIDS United in Washington, D.C., a continuation of his career of service to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Interviews of Michael Kaplan during his time at CAP can be seen on YouTube: HERE and HERE

CAP staff’s 2012 farewell tribute video to Michael can be viewed here: HERE

Brown McDonald

In 1983, in response to the emerging AIDS epidemic, Cascade AIDS Project was created as a committee of Phoenix Rising, a Portland organization providing counseling services to the gay community. In 1984, CAP was awarded an $8,000 grant by the Chicago Resource Center to hire an executive director, a position budgeted at fifteen hours per week and $10 per hour. Brown McDonald was hired as CAP’s first executive director, at a time when there were just seventeen diagnosed cases of AIDS in the Portland metro area.

When McDonald started his work at CAP, the program had just one desk and one telephone, sharing office space with Phoenix Rising’s executive director. He soon found himself devoting sixty-plus hours per week to the ever-increasing demands for information, education, and prevention efforts around an epidemic which he describes as inspiring “absolute and utter terror” in the community.

During McDonald’s two-year tenure as CAP’s executive director, he oversaw several successful grant applications for federal funding from the Conference of Mayors Research and Education Foundation, developed AIDS educational materials and outreach programs, and expanded CAP’s staff through a group of dedicated volunteers and a newly formed Board of Directors.  He co-created Oregon’s counseling protocol for HIV testing sites, in conjunction with the State of Oregon and Multnomah County, training staff at county health departments around the state to understand issues critical to those seeking HIV testing services.

Brown worked with the Coalition of Drug Abuse Agencies (CODA) in Portland to create AIDS education and outreach services for drug users, the first services of this kind in Oregon. It was also during this period that CAP’s signature support program, the Personal Active Listener (PAL) Project, was developed (and named by Brown). In December 1985, under McDonald’s leadership, CAP was incorporated as a separate organization, and in 1986 CAP gained its IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status. That same year, CAP merged with two other AIDS-related community organizations, Community Health and Essential Support Services (CHESS) and the Brinker Fund.

After leaving CAP as a result of the 1986 merger and reorganization, Brown went on to serve as executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Houston. He recently retired, after serving as Manager of HIV Prevention and Education Services at the Washington State Department of Health, having devoted over 25 years of service to HIV/AIDS organizations. As part of CAP’s 25th anniversary Archives Project, Brown sat for an oral history interview in 2010. The complete interview may be viewed on the CAP Archives YouTube channel HERE.


Q Center and the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN) have partnered on an annual multi-media celebration of LGBTQ pioneers and leaders from our local movement called Queer Heroes NW!

The project features a new queer hero (nominated by the greater LGBTQ community) every day online during Pride month (June). The 30 queer heroes are also featured on the walls of the Aaron Hall Gallery at Q Center for the months of June and July, as well as in Q Center’s Pride booths all over the region.

After Pride is over each year the portable display hits the road and makes the rounds all over community centers, schools, churches, and businesses in the Pacific NW! Help us honor our queer heroes by spreading the word.

Queer Heroes NW: 2013
Queer Heroes NW: 2012
Queer Heroes NW Videos by Q Center Media Team
Queer Heroes NW at the Oregon Department of Justice

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