Benefits offer great entertainment while helping people with HIV

Dining Out for Life, Joining Hearts, Uncork a Cure offer fun and fundraising for HIV

Three popular annual benefits devoted to helping people with HIV are just around the corner.

First out of the block is the perennial Dining Out for Life, scheduled for April 21. Sponsored by Open Hand, Dining Out for Life is now in its 18th year. Patrons are asked to visit area restaurants for a meal; at least 20 percent of the proceeds go to Open Hand. More than 150 restaurants will participate in the 2010 edition.

Dining Out for Life
April 21
Various metro area restaurants

Change of Seasons
April 25, 5 – 10 p.m.
Shout at Colony Square
1197 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30361

Uncork a Cure
April 29, 6 – 9 p.m.
The Foundry at Puritan Mill
916 Joseph Lowery Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30318

According to Matt Pieper, senior director of resource development at Open Hand, Dining Out for Life has evolved “from a handful of restaurants participating 18 years ago to restaurants all over Atlanta.” He says what distinguishes this fundraiser from others is that basically it’s a “non-event.”

“There is no price of admission, no tuxedos to rent,” says Pieper. “Our supporters are simply asked to enjoy lunch or dinner at their favorite participating restaurant, knowing that at least 20 percent of their tab will benefit [us].”

Open Hand, which has been serving Atlanta and surrounding areas for 22 years, has become the largest home delivery meal in the nation, preparing and delivering more than 5,000 meals across 17 Georgia counties. Originally called Project Open Hand, it was founded to provide meals for people with HIV, and later expanded to include others in need.

Next up after Dining Out for Life is Joining Heart’s Change of Seasons tea dance on April 25.  Now in its second year, Change of Seasons will feature popular DJ Mike Pope at Shout.

“It should be a wonderful event,” says Dwayne Queen, marketing director for Joining Hearts. “The music will be great, with warm weather and drink specials at an upscale location.”

According to Queen, the organization recently decided to up its number of annual events. “We continue to grow and as such we made the decision to have a presence all year,” he says.

Joining Hearts now hosts four events throughout the year, the main fundraiser being Joining Hearts 23 in July. Queen expects a big crowd for the tea dance, as well as good mix of gay and straight participants.

Joining Hearts is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to providing housing support to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Atlanta area.

Rounding out the month is Uncork a Cure, an April 29 benefit for the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta. Now in its 20th season, the event takes place this year at the Foundry at Puritan Mill.

Therese Tran, event chair, says participating restaurants are among the top tier of Atlanta-area food venues. Past participants have included Woodfire Grill, Bacchanalia, Peasant Bistro, Morton’s Steakhouse, Watershed and 4th & Swift. This year, MetroFresh and Ludacris’ Straits are among the 20 participants.

A ticket provides unlimited food and alcohol, as well as entrance and a free drink at the after party at Tongue & Groove.

One attribute of Uncork a Cure that sets it apart is being able to interact with many of the chefs involved, Tran says. The silent auction is also traditionally popular.

ARCA’s funding has decreased, making benefits such as these vital, Tran says. “This is our signature event,” she says. “It helps to sustain operating costs.”

“HIV still touches everyone; it’s not a gay/lesbian disease,” Tran adds. “We all need to work to find a cure.”