Weekly Feature



2017-10-04 / Lifestyles

Chews to help

Donate your appetite on Oct. 10 to fight HIV/AIDS
by HOLLY N. LIPKA
Reporter


Steve and Ellen Gedra, co-owners of The Black Sheep, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, were named honorary co-chairmen of this year’s Dining Out For Life. They have participated in the fundraising event since 2010. Steve and Ellen Gedra, co-owners of The Black Sheep, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, were named honorary co-chairmen of this year’s Dining Out For Life. They have participated in the fundraising event since 2010. Restaurant-goers across Western New York will help those affected by HIV and AIDS on Tuesday, Oct. 10, as part of the annual fundraiser Dining Out for Life. On that day, more than 90 restaurants will donate 25 percent or more of their proceeds to HIV supportive services at Evergreen Health. This year marks the event’s 15th year in Buffalo. More than 60 cities participate each year.

KeyBank sponsors the event and will match, dollar for dollar, money donated by diners the night of the event, up to $10,000. The ride-sharing app Lyft will also offer diners up to 20 percent off two rides the day of the event from 5 p.m. to midnight, when using the discount code DINEOUTWNY in the Lyft app.

“It really is the easiest fundraiser to participate in,” said Rob Baird, director of fundraising and events at Evergreen Health. “All you have to do is go out and enjoy a meal.”

Steve and Ellen Gedra, co-owners of The Black Sheep, are this year’s honorary co-chairmen and will donate 50 percent of each food bill the day of the event. They have participated since 2010.

“Ellen and I are happy to continue our involvement with this event, which supports much-needed services Evergreen Health provides. We believe it’s important to help each other in any way we can. The community supports our business, and we want to support our community,” said Steve Gedra.

Evergreen Health was founded as AIDS Community Services in 1983, in response to the AIDS epidemic. Since then, Evergreen Health has developed a range of life-enhancing services for underserved and stigmatized individuals dealing with chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes and heart disease, mental health challenges and substance abuse.

“One of the great things about Evergreen is that we use a harm reduction model, which means we’re very open, welcoming and nonjudgmental,” said Baird.

The facility serves about 3,000 patients. One-third of the patients are HIV-positive. It houses a medical group and full-service pharmacy, offers screenings for sexually transmitted infections, and has the largest syringe exchange program outside New York City. More than 600,000 needles were exchanged last year.

In addition to its facility at 206 S. Elmwood Ave., Evergreen Health opened a 56-unit apartment building called Evergreen Lofts in August 2016. The lofts are offered to people living with chronic illnesses and struggling with homelessness.

“If you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep tonight, your medical care isn’t on the top of your list,” said Baird. “When we opened [Evergreen Lofts], we already had a waiting list of 50 people. I believe there’s a lot of opportunities to expand on that in the future.”

Evergreen Health also operates a food pantry, catering to those who are HIV-positive.

People who are HIV-positive need to eat a well-balanced diet to obtain essential nutrients to reach a healthy weight, strengthen their immune systems, prevent infection and reduce hospital stays. Eating a well-balanced diet also helps the body build and keep muscle and allows medications to work better. However, finding these nutritious foods in a traditional food pantry can be difficult.

“In the Evergreen Food Pantry, we strive to choose food products that exceed traditional food pantry standards. This includes choosing lean meats; whole grains; low-sodium, low-in-sugar, minimally processed foods whenever possible,” said Kimberly Brown, director of wellness and nutrition.

According to the state Department of Health, around 3,000 people in WNY are living with HIV, but only half know they are HIV-positive.

“Even though HIV is no longer a death sentence, we still need to get the awareness out there so people get tested on a regular basis. That’s why the event is so great,” said Baird.

Last year, Dining Out for Life raised $132,000 in Buffalo. In 15 years, restaurants in the area have raised $1.2 million.

“Buffalo is the city of good neighbors. People here will do about anything to support a good cause,” said Baird. “It’s so great to see people supporting it.”

For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/wny.

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