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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is at Dinnerfest and Taste of South End

by Antoinette Weil

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday February 23, 2013

Two delectable fundraising events will have Boston foodies jumping for joy. Victory Programs' annual "Dinnerfest" for the Boston Living Center, and AIDS Action Committee's 18th Annual "Taste of the South End" are right around the corner. Featuring some of the best restaurants and chefs in Boston, each of these yearly events will raise funds for their local nonprofits, while raising the bar for guests' palettes.

"The Boston Living Center is an amazing organization that historically has always been about community meals, food and bringing people together," said Jonathan Scott, president and CEO of Victory Programs. "We really invested a lot to make sure that the Living Center could maintain their purpose. This is a really important and historic fundraiser."

Because of this weekend's projected snowstorm, The Victory Program's Dinnerfest has been postponed until April 21, which leaves you plenty of time to get tickets. It has been one of the chief fundraisers supporting the BLC for 20 years. The BLC and Victory Programs are celebrating the anniversary of their merger last year, and so the event is expected to be bigger and better than ever.

The event, to be held at the Brahmin Restaurant, will afford guests the opportunity to enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres while checking out and bidding on the more than 100 auction packages up for grabs. These will include dinners for up to eight people from some of the top restaurants in the area as well as a few generous vacation packages to New Orleans, San Francisco and Napa Valley.

Kiss 108 Producer "Gay Jim" Clerkin and Joan Parker, foodie and widow of novelist Robert Parker, will add celebrity dining packages to the mix, and Sammy Levitt will host.

The location for Dinnerfest is perfect for those wishing to learn more about Victory Programs and the work they do. Because the Brahmin is located next door to the BLC, it affords the perfect opportunity for guests to take guided champagne tours of the facilities they are supporting through this event.

"Donors put together really fun and unusual packages so guests can enjoy themselves while giving back to the community," said Scott, "Just like we want our guests at the Living Center to have a good experience every time they walk through the door."

This fundraiser stems from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when medical treatments were unavailable for people with HIV and AIDS. The BLC took this as a cue to promote community and well being by providing and focusing on nutrition and healthy meals.

Victory Programs expects to host about 300 people at this event and has a fundraising goal of $75,000, one that they hope to meet and exceed. Scott said that there are hundreds of people who volunteer for Victory Programs each year and that this is another way for them to come together and help out.

"It's a fundraiser and a friend-raiser," he quipped.

Tickets for this event are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. The money raised will support Victory Programs and ensure that their numerous initiatives on homelessness, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS can continue and thrive.

AIDS Action Committee’s Taste of the South End

The Taste of the South End will bring together more than 40 of the area's hottest restaurants in the Boston Center of the Arts, Cyclorama from 7-9:30 p.m. on March 5. Guests will sample unlimited food and drinks from local eateries, see live cooking demonstrations, take part in raffles and bid in silent auctions for everything from cookware to Caribbean getaways.

"Because the community in the South End is so supportive, it's great to be able to host this event here and support local businesses while raising money for AIDS Action," said AAC's Director of Fundraising Events Cathy Kujala.

The money raised through this event will go towards AAC, and more specifically, will help fund its MALE center, which is located in the South End. Here, they administer HIV testing for more than 1,000 people each year, providing preventative tools and information for those who test negative and health resources for those who test positive.

"The important thing to remember when supporting AIDS Action Committee is that we know that what we are doing works," said Kujala.

In the past decade, Massachusetts has seen a 53 percent decrease in new infections. This, Kujala affirmed, has equaled a savings of about $2 billion in health costs and thousands of people free of HIV/AIDS. Massachusetts has been the only state to do this, and part of the reason is the great work that AIDS Action and other Boston nonprofits have been doing.

These promising statistics can give way to a feeling that there is less urgency and HIV/AIDS is under control. But, despite the positive outlook, there has been a 40 percent increase in people living with HIV and AIDS due to advancements in medicine and better care, while at the same time government funding has dropped significantly. AAC hopes to be able to make up the gap in funding with their benefit events.

"We would never want to have to turn somebody away who came to AAC for help because we don't have the money," said Kujala.

This is why Kujala, and AIDS Action, is hoping to raise about $120,000 with the Taste of the South End. It is anticipated that 700 people will attend the culinary extravaganza, and tickets are still on sale. The general admission price for the event is $100, which includes unlimited samplings of all the tasty cuisine and bids to win prizes from the top spots in the South End and beyond.

And if you feel like giving more, VIP tickets can be purchased for $150 and include everything listed above plus free champagne, early admittance to the event and three additional restaurants that only VIP ticket holders will have access to.

"My favorite thing about the event is that it's a way to involve people who maybe never thought of supporting AIDS Action," said Kujala. "They come to this fun food event and are able to see and learn about our programming. They may be a one-time supporter, or as we hope, they'll want to become more involved with the organization."

To purchase tickets for Dinnerfest, visit To purchase tickets for Taste of South End, visit