"Syringe exchange costs my region $316,000 per year, and what I provide the counties supporting us is one of the lowest HIV populations in the country. When we started this program, the HIV rate among IDUs and their sexual partners was three percent. Now it's 1.5 percent. Over the past 15 years, these counties would have seen 1,000 more infected drug users, each of whom would have cost the public healthcare system $100,000. In New York City, 50 percent of the drug users were infected 10 years ago. We've lowered that to 20 percent.

"Our biggest challenge? Resources. We know how to do this, and, nationwide, we could reach another 400,000 people per year. Providing the resources of needle exchange costs about $100 per person per year. Compare that to the public health-care dollars consumed by each AIDS patient, and we're cheap insurance.

"Because we have saved lives, curbed the spread of AIDS, and saved billions of dollars, it would be nice to be paid decently for our work. But human-service and nonprofit employees are rarely paid what they are worth. There's an assumption that people who want to do good can sustain themselves on the personal satisfaction derived from their work. Maybe they're right: Doing the right thing goes a long way in how you feel at the end of the day. And in giving you staying power - I'm not going away until AIDS goes away."

MARGIE KERR
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In 1992, USA Weekend Magazine promoted the first Make a Difference Day, challenging Americans to devote the fourth Saturday in October to doing good deeds around their communities. Inspired by the concept, Margie Kerr and her sister rallied groups in their hometown of Wenatchee, Washington. That year, Wenatchee won the national award from the event organizers as the most involved community. Ten years later, Make a Difference Day has snowballed nationally to include millions of participants. Locally, Kerr's efforts have kept pace. In 2003, with the help of her friend Laurel Helton, Kerr, 61, inspired nearly 25,000 people from the greater Wenatchee area - nearly half the region's population - to spend the day helping others. That earned her town another national award.