Debbie Rock was born and raised in Baltimore. She grew up singing in church and with a dream to become a famous singer. She accomplished her dream but success hasn’t stopped her from reaching back into her beloved Baltimore to help others.
On Saturday, October 19, Rock’s LIGHT Health and Wellness Comprehensive Services, Inc., will celebrate its 21st anniversary with a “Be The LIGHT” gala at 7 p.m. at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. The gala serves as LIGHT’s principal fundraising event.
The event will recognize community trailblazers, including Dr. Leana Wen; Deborah Phelps; Albert and Brandon Wylie; Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford; and Rev. Debra Hickman.
Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings counts among the VIP guests with Martha Wash scheduled for a special musical selection.
Rock anticipates as many as 300 people will attend from the public and private sectors, including elected officials, corporate leaders, community partners, and private citizens.
“LIGHT relies on the support of individuals, corporations and foundations that can see the passion we have in serving our communities and improving the lives of children and families to achieve greater overall successful and healthy outcomes,” Rock said. “We are constantly seeking innovative and creative ways to raise funds. As we embark on 21 years, we are celebrating with our ‘Come Board the LIGHT Train’ Gala which has become our signature annual fundraiser and an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments.
“We are seeking corporate, foundation and individual sponsors, silent auction item donations, patrons, single ticket purchasers, you name it. Any support we can garner for this event would propel LIGHT to greater heights.”
Rock was a national disco recording artist who performed in the 1970s under the name, Debbie Jacobs. Among her biggest hits was “Don’t You Want My Love,” which gave her a nationwide audience. It was during that time that Rock said she began to witness the devastation of AIDS, particularly in the gay community.
“I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. I made it my mission to become a part of advocating for those impacted by this dreadful disease,” Rock said.
Along with other artists, Rock would finish a paid performance and then appear at benefit shows to help raise money for community-based organizations who were providing critical services to those affected by AIDS.
“When I found out how HIV was impacting the African American community, I returned to Baltimore and started the first day and respite program for children and families impacted by HIV, which was named The Baltimore Pediatric HIV Program,” Rock said.
She later founded LIGHT Health & Wellness, which is located in the heart of West Baltimore.
“We are proud and honored to provide services for working parents that include a safe and nurturing environment where children are educated, training resources for new skills to advance their careers, and addressing mental health needs to assist them in coping with any life-altering traumatic experiences that may be creating limitations,” Rock said.
For the past 21 years LIGHT has reached more than 21,000 women, children, men, and families. It includes comprehensive services that have been specifically crafted for individuals that are impacted by HIV, substance abuse, mental health and trauma.
Those services include non-medical case management, emergency financial assistance, health education, psychosocial supportive services and outreach.
“Over the years our outreach services have successfully reached thousands of clients and over 900 today are still actively in care and thriving,” Rock said. “Through our HIV, Substance Abuse and Mental Health programs, to care for longer than 6 months after completion of our program. Some of our clients have become staunch advocates of LIGHT and have come back to volunteer in some capacity.”
At LIGHT, officials think outside the box to find necessary funds and resources, according to Rock. And, it often pays off with inspiring stories and outcomes.
“There are many great success stories of individuals and families that have gone through our programs. Our children who were born with HIV are living healthy productive lives, some have graduated from prestigious schools such as Spelman, St. Mary’s University, and Morgan State,” Rock said. “They are teachers, practicing social workers, serving as nurses, married and raising families of their own. Our programs have been sustained through some of the hardest times.”