Action Wellness this year transformed its annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser into a virtual event––Dining In for Life––and raised nearly $60,000. The donations came through peer to peer fundraising and private donations. Donors were encouraged to order takeout from restaurants that have been long-time participants in Dining Out for Life, or purchase gift cards to enjoy when restaurants are up and running again. Some donors had virtual dinner parties with each other through Zoom.
“People were very generous,” said Action Wellness Executive Director Kevin Burns. “We have a lot of donors who have been impacted like everybody else, who are unemployed and struggling to get through this, so we are very grateful for every dollar that people gave.”
Not only did Action Wellness receive generous donations, but the team used the fundraiser as an opportunity to connect with the community. Burns and Sarah DeLaurentis, director of development and communications for Action Wellness, joined a couple of donor Zoom calls on the day of the event to say hello and express their thanks.
“It was really very moving to see how people were coming together and supporting one another on the calls,” Burns said. “We missed being in the restaurants obviously, but I felt like we got to connect with a lot of people who were doing virtual ‘dining ins.’”
Since its inception as an AIDS service organization in 1986, Action Wellness has since expanded to provide healthcare, case management and testing to individuals living with HIV and other chronic illnesses. The organization also offers prison reentry programs, housing assistance and services for pregnant women.
Dining Out for Life began with Action Wellness in 1991, and now takes place in more than 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada. The fundraiser cooperatively raises upwards of $4 million annually to benefit organizations that serve people living with HIV/AIDS. Under normal circumstances, members of the public can contribute to the fundraiser by dining in designated restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which donate 33% of their intake to Action Wellness, AIDS Delaware and Camden Area Health Education Center, Inc.
As they have been since the start of the pandemic, Action Wellness case managers and volunteer buddies have been checking up on their patients by phone on a weekly basis. The organization has about 20 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, Burns said, and while most of them are doing relatively well, one person is in the ICU as of last week.
“We’re trying to make sure that we’re monitoring people’s symptoms every day, making sure that they’re communicating with their doctors,” Burns said. “That’s been the focus. I think there are some unique challenges––we have some clients who have been struggling with food insecurity, so we’ve been sending them gift cards so they can go shopping and get food.” Some of the funding from DOFL may also be used for additional formula for babies in the organization’s perinatal program, Burns said.
Action Wellness staff and volunteers continue to show great dedication to the cause. “Our staff has been incredible,” Burns said.
“We track units of service every month, and even with people working at home, the units have been terrific.”
Donations can be made to Action Wellness through May 24 by visiting https://www.actionwellness.org/donate/direct-donation/