Party-goers gathered at Heretic on Friday, July 20, 2012 to kick the weekend off with the Joining Hearts pre-party featuring DJ Joe Gauthreaux. $1 of everyone's cover went to Joining Hearts, a charity group that raises money for local HIV/AIDS organizations like Jerusalem House and AID Atlanta. Photos by Brent Corcoran / RNZ Photography
Packed annual pool party heats up to help people with HIV
A sea of bodies partying poolside in Piedmont Park doesn’t usually conjure up the mental image of altruism, but on July 21, the Joining Hearts main event pool party will mark its 25th year of helping people living with HIV/AIDS.
The equal beneficiaries of the fundraiser are AID Atlanta, the city’s largest HIV service provider, as well as Jerusalem House, Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent housing for low-income and homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS.
“It started out in 1987 as one small black tie gala. Now, we have six different types of events throughout the year. The pool party is our biggest,” says Kerry Loftis, president of Joining Hearts. “It generates close to 50 percent of all of the funds that we raise for housing people living with HIV.”
Joining Hearts celebrates 25 years of fundraising
Gay Atlanta welcomes spring today as the annual Change of Seasons tea dance warms up The Georgian Terrace Hotel. Featuring DJs Vicki Powell and Mike Pope, the event is put on Joining Hearts, which raises funds to provide housing to people impacted by HIV.
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Gay Atlanta’s biggest party of the summer looked very different during its early years.
When a group of friends gathered at the Golden Key Club in 1987 for a fundraiser for people living with AIDS, it was a black-tie affair that collected almost $10,000. The event known as Joining Hearts has become less formal over the years, with hundreds frolicking in the Piedmont Park swimming pool each July while setting fundraising records.
In 2010, Joining Hearts raised $125,000 for AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House — the largest total the event has collected in its more than two-decade history, bringing the cumulative donation total to $1,154,500. Organizers have even higher hopes for Joining Hearts 24, which takes place July 23.
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When you hear the words Joining Hearts, the image most likely to pop up in your head is hundreds of people in bathing suits, standing around the Piedmont Park pool enjoying cocktails, as booming beats thunder in the background — all to raise thousands of dollars for AID Atlanta and Jerusalem House.
But Joining Hearts also holds events throughout the year to raise funds for these organizations, as well as its annual Wish List holiday party where guests bring toys for the children at Jerusalem House and gift cards for youths who are part of the teen program at AID Atlanta.
A wish list for the Wish List party is set up at Target stores and available online, said Patrick McCulley, board member of Joining Hearts.
Hundreds of hot men (and some women) will pack the Piedmont Park pool July 24 for Joining Hearts 23, the annual fundraiser that helps provide housing for people with HIV.
“Joining Hearts has always been one of the highlights of the gay community each summer,” says Kerry Loftis, director of events for Joining Hearts, an all-volunteer, non-profit charity. “We get people who come here from all over the country for this event. They plan their vacations around it. People consider it like a big family reunion.”
DJ Roland Belmares, an Atlanta favorite from Austin, Texas, returns to spin for this year’s event, dubbed “Splash.”
“People like his style of playing really upbeat, fun music,” Loftis says. “He has a big following here because we all love the way that he makes it a really fun, good party. He mixes music that everyone just loves.”