As part of continued efforts to practice social distancing and reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, many community events have been modified to become remote and/or virtual. For the 30th consecutive year, Action Wellness will still host its Dining Out for Life fundraiser on April 30, although this year it will manifest as Dining In for Life.
Under usual circumstances, Dining Out for Life allows community members to donate simply by going out to dinner to designated Philadelphia area restaurants, which would donate 33% of food sales to Action Wellness, AIDS Delaware and Camden Area Health Education Center, Inc.
The event is typically the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year, bringing in close to $200,000 and can’t be abandoned, according to Executive Director Kevin Burns.
Actions Wellness provides healthcare, case management and testing to individuals living with HIV and other chronic illnesses. What began as an AIDS service organization in 1986 has expanded substantially, and the nonprofit now also has prison entry programs. With a substantial amount of funding in the balance, Burns said Action Wellness will put “as much energy into [Dining In for Life] as we can.”
Dining In for Life is a social, peer-to-peer event and something quite different for the nonprofit. Participants can support Action Wellness by making a donation online or by phone, becoming a virtual ambassador and launching your own fundraising page, following Action Wellness on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and sharing its posts, dining remotely with friends or family on April 30th and sharing your evening on social media using the hashtags #DineInEndHIVPHL and #DineOnlineEndHIV.
Action Wellness is not taking donations from restaurants this year but encourages folks to buy a gift certificate or order takeout from its partners including Adobe Cafe, Barbuzzo, Loco Pez in Fishtown, South and West Philly, Pub and Kitchen, Yards Brewing Company and many more.
Dining Out for Life began 30 years ago with Julie Drizin, former director of WXPN-FM radio and volunteer in the Action Wellness Buddy Program, then ActionAIDS. In an interview with Action Wellness, Drizin said that she wanted to launch a fundraising event “that would not have too high a barrier for participation in terms of money or effort.”
Dining In for Life may even have fewer barriers. Burns said, “This could be a way to engage people who are not in the Philadelphia area but who want to support us, to do it in conjunction with an in-restaurant event next year. I think it does open up an opportunity for us to be really creative and maybe to engage a wider audience.”
Beyond Dining In For Life, Action Wellness continues to provide remote support for its clients. Although a handful of its clients have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, none of them have had to be hospitalized and staff members have been checking on them every day, Burns said.
“We have really stepped up what we’ve been doing in terms of reaching out to all of our clients,” he said. “Just in the last two weeks of March, after we initially went virtual, we made 987 calls to clients and connected with those clients and provided 1,920 different calls around services they were needing. In addition to that, we made 787 attempted contacts to clients where we left messages.”
Burns told PGN he thinks that providing virtual support to clients has been fruitful for them.
“Our clients have been really responsive to it, really grateful that they know that they have their case manager there to support them,” he said. “A lot of our volunteer ‘Buddies’ have scheduled daily calls with clients just to check in. That’s really inspiring. Our volunteers are amazing, and a handful of them have lost jobs. Everybody has their own trauma that they’re dealing with, but I do think, and this has been true all through the HIV epidemic, getting out of yourself and trying to help and support someone else, it also gives you a lot.”
Individuals can donate to Action Wellness online at https://www.actionwellness.org/donate, by phone at 215-981-3367 or by texting DINE to 50155. Becoming a virtual ambassador can be done online at https://secure.qgiv.com/event/diningoutforlifephl