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Dining Out for Life raises funding to fight AIDS

on May 2, 2011

Eating out is usually an indulgence, but for those dining at select Bay Area restaurants last Thursday, it was also a good deed. At locations from San Francisco to Oakland, a quarter of each patron’s check was donated to fight AIDS.

“Dining Out for Life,” an annual fundraising event organized by a coalition of Bay Area AIDS-prevention organizations, took place this year in 93 restaurants around the bay, including 16 in Oakland. All participating restaurants donated 25 percent of their food sales for the day to the fundraiser, while some, like À Côté in Rockridge, also donated the same portion of their liquor sales.

Jeff Berlin, À Côté’s manager, said participating in the fundraiser was a no-brainer. “Why take part? Because it’s a good cause,” he said. “Don’t need much more reason than that.” Berlin said that his restaurant advertised the event moderately, but that much traffic was driven to À Côté by ads circulated by the event’s planners.

Donald Donham and Terry Lee, two volunteer “ambassadors” for the fundraiser, were on hand at À Côté to inform diners about the event and invite them to participate in a raffle. In addition to contributing funds just by ordering food and drinks, many patrons also paid $5 to $25 for a chance to prizes ranging from gift certificates to participating restaurants and tickets to a San Francisco Giants game to vacation packages in Napa and Mexico. Donham and Lee estimated that more than half of the patrons they’d spoken with had come to dine specifically to take part in the fundraiser.

Aaron Barton, on the other hand, was among the customers unaware of the fundraiser before he arrived for dinner. “I was surprised, I guess,” he said. “But I can’t complain. I get to have my dinner, and if I’m helping someone along the way, that’s a win-win.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to organizations like the Stop AIDS Project in San Francisco, and East Bay groups including AIDS Project East Bay, Allen Temple AIDS Ministry, and the Rainbow Community Center. Collectively, the groups will use the money raised to continue their work in HIV prevention and testing, AIDS awareness campaigns, and support services for HIV-positive residents of the Bay Area.

Dining Out for Life was founded in Philadelphia in 1991. The event is now held in more than 55 cities, mostly in the eastern half of the country. The event was widespread in California, taking place in six cities throughout the state. In recent years, the fundraiser has brought in about $4 million nationwide each year, and planners expect to reach that figure again this year.

Image: Photo courtesy of lynn.gardner via Flickr

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