Michigan AIDS Coalition to host Dining Out For Life

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 16, 2014

 Dining Out For Life April 24 will allow people to eat at several restaurants in the metro Detroit area and have a portion of the bills go to the Michigan AIDS Coalition.

Dining Out For Life April 24 will allow people to eat at several restaurants in the metro Detroit area and have a portion of the bills go to the Michigan AIDS Coalition.

Photo submitted by Shanthi Sivanandham

FERNDALE — Shanthi Sivanandham, development and special events coordinator at Michigan AIDS Coalition, said she hears all the time about people who want to get involved and support the coalition’s vision.

On April 24, Sivanandham and MAC will be providing the easiest way for the public to get involved with Dining Out For Life, a nationwide event that benefits HIV/AIDS supportive services across the country.

“HIV/AIDS is still a health issue and even though a majority of the population is not affected by it, there is still someone out there that needs help, that needs that encouragement and education and a friendly voice to talk to,” Sivanandham said. “By going out and dining, a great number of people can have places to go when they need someone to talk to, and we can continue to provide those resources for those people to thrive.”

MAC is a nonprofit organization based in Ferndale that provides testing, counseling and other services to those affected in any way by HIV and AIDS. Last year, MAC reached more than 30,000 people through workshops and training.

ActionAIDS, based in Philadelphia, established Dining Out For Life in 1990. Since then, the fundraising event has grown across the country and into Canada.

On the last Thursday of April each year, participating restaurants give a portion of each bill to the local HIV/AIDS service organization. This year will be the third year MAC has hosted the event, and the organization has raised about $10,000 each of the previous years.

“National Dining Out For Life day this year is April 24, and the concept is simple with participating restaurants donating a portion of their proceeds,” Sivanandham said. “Organizations can use the money for their programs, and us here at the Michigan AIDS Coalition use it to supplement the programs we already have going on. It is very easy to participate because people can just look up the participating restaurants and go and dine out.”

Terry Ryan, the CEO of MAC, said the fundraiser is successful because it is the easiest way for everyone to get involved with helping HIV/AIDS service organizations.

“Dining Out For Life is one of the simplest and most enjoyable fundraisers we do all year,” Ryan said. “Simply by sharing a meal with friends and family at participating restaurants, residents can help raise funds to provide counseling and testing to the men and women who are most at risk in our state.

“Many people don’t realize the AIDS virus has reached near epidemic proportions right here in our community, and with the support of our very generous dining establishments, MAC can help stop the spread of the disease.”

MAC holds the Dining Out For Life license for five counties, meaning no other organization can hold a Dining Out For Life event in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Genesee or Washtenaw counties.

This year, MAC has about 20 restaurants participating, and other restaurants can still join the fundraiser. Sivanandham said several restaurants have returned each year to help MAC and the organization’s cause.

“This event really started out with one organization and has kind of spread, so it is specifically benefiting organizations like MAC, whose funding has been cut,” she said. “Our primary funding streams are through state, federal and local grants, as well as private grants. Events like Dining Out For Life represents unrestricted dollars and helps us supplement our existing programs.”

With the involvement of metro Detroit residents and participating restaurants, Sivanandham said the ultimate goal of MAC becomes easier each year.

“The goal for us is to get to zero, which means we want to have a zero rate of new infection and a zero rate of detection, and we will keep going until that happens,” she said. “I think this event really continues through the sheer tenacity and will and passion of our friends and supporters in the community. HIV/AIDS is not gone, and there is a need for counseling, testing, prevention and outreach in the Detroit area.”

For more information on Dining Out For Life, or to see a list of participating restaurants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/detroit.