Casual reception benefits AIDS Care Service
(pictured above: Roger Hayes speaks at Friday’s Dining with Friends event at the Piedmont Club.)
Roger Hayes and his partner Tunnie Billingsley hosted a fundraiser for AIDS Care Service on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Piedmont Club.
Guests enjoyed complementary hors d’oeuvres, music and line dancing and were encouraged to leave tips to support AIDS Care Services, which supports local residents living with HIV and AIDS. The fundraiser was one of several Dining With Friends events hosted earlier this month to support the agency. The dinner party fundraising initiative is one of AIDS Care Services’ main funding sources.
Hayes is the pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship and an event coordinator at the Piedmont Club, a business and social club located on the 19th floor of the downtown BB&T Financial Center. Every month, the club hosts a fundraiser for a local charity. Hayes arranged for ACS to be this month’s beneficiary.
Billingsley manned the sound system for the event. He said he and Hayes, an openly gay couple, were happy to host an event to help those with HIV/AIDS.
“(It’s) to bring light to HIV/AIDS and let people know that there’s support out there for them,” he said.
Hayes is active with ACS, facilitating a discussion group and promoting HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. His church is open to all and affirming of same gender loving people. In his sanctuary, HIV/AIDS has never been a taboo subject. He thinks all churches should be open about the topic, as it affects all communities.
“We have people in our congregation that are positive,” Hayes said. “I don’t know any family who can not reach out one or two generations and touch someone in their family who is.”
Piedmont Club Board Member Tony Burton was among the attendees. He regularly attends the club’s charitable events, often inviting friends to tag along. He was glad to do his part to help raise HIV/AIDS awareness.
“(HIV/AIDS) is definitely something the community needs to be made aware of,” said Burton, the CEO of Mudpies Northwest Child Development Centers and a candidate for the Forsyth County Board of County Commissioners. “We have a lot of people in our community that’s affected by it directly or indirectly.”
Heidi Andrew and Connie Graham, who were married last year in Washington, D.C. (where same-sex unions are legal), regularly attend Dining with Friends dinner party events.
“We’re going to try to hit several parties today and tomorrow,” Andrew said. “And we’re having one at our house.”
Graham is the business manager at AIDS Care Service and the administrator of Holly Haven, a residential program for those living with HIV/AIDS run by ACS. Even in 2014, HIV/AIDS is stigmatized and those with the virus and disease face discrimination from a fearful public.
“There’s still the stigma, so people are disenfranchised who have HIV/AIDS,” she said.
ACS Executive Director Jesse Duncan stopped by. It was one of three Dining with Friends events that night. Twenty-five more were slated the next day. Each person who attended a Dining with Friends event received a ticket for the culmination event – the Grand Desert Finale – on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Old Salem Visitor’s Center.
The Dining with Friends was restructured this year, condensing the calendar so most of the dinner parties took place on either the Feb. 7 or Feb. 8. The change created a busy weekend for ACS supporters. There were twice as many parties held this year as last year.
“Whenever you restructure something you just never know how people are going to react,” Duncan said. “It’s been an overwhelmingly positive response to how we’ve done Dining with Friends this year, which will ultimately benefit our clients.”
The Piedmont Club event raised $200. The entire Dining series has raised more than $18,000 so far this year. Donations are still being tallied, including those from a dessert auction held Saturday at St Anne’s Episcopal Church.
Learn more about AIDS Care Service at http://www.aidscareservice.org. More about the Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship is available at www.chsfnc.org and the Piedmont Club at http://www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Piedmont-Club-Winston-Salem.