Dining Out for Life organizers hope to break $75,000 for CARES

By Finis Ray
Staff writer

One day each year, local restaurants and Nashville CARES partner in creating the ultimate recipe for success - Dining Out for Life.

The seventh annual fundraiser will be held April 28 when local restaurants donate all or a portion of their proceeds from the day's sales to Nashville CARES to promote AIDS prevention education and support services.

Nashville CARES partnered with 40 local eateries for the first time in 2003 as part of Dining Out for Life. The benefit was greeted with overwhelming success, raising $16,000 for CARES.

This year more than 65 restaurants plan to participate, up from 60 last year, even in a troubled economy. Susan Kastan, director of marketing and events for Nashville CARES, said that is proof of the event's importance in the Nashville community.

"The restaurants are good advocates for this," Kastan said. "They’ve been with us in good times and hard times. They know it's even more important in the hard times."

Dining Out for Life was first created by ActionAIDs of Philadelphia 1991 in order to help the public understand HIV transmission and prevention.

By partnering with Philadelphia-area restaurants, ActionAIDS placed emphasis on the nutritional need and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS, while forming a strong sense of community effort by simply urging people to dine out for one night at participating restaurants. By 1993, Dining Out for Life had grown to international success throughout North America. This year, restaurants in 46 cities plan to participate in the April 28 event.

Kastan said the foremost intention of DOFL is to educate the community about the prevention of HIV transmission, but it provides many other benefits, as well.

"This benefit supports a symbiotic relationship with Nashville CARES and participating restaurants; we get to help support awareness and those living with HIV/AIDS, while restaurants can hopefully receive a larger patronage,” Kastan said. “But more importantly, Dining Out for Life is an opportunity for everyone to come together and build a strong community through the celebration of life, friendship and food.”

In Nashville last year, each participating restaurant donated at least 30 percent of food sales on the day of the benefit. Both Red Restaurant and Germantown Café donated 100 percent of their earnings; Kalamatas donated 75 percent; Mambu, Sole Mio, and Rumba Rum Bar each donated 50 percent.

The generosity of restaurants and patrons alike helped Dining Out for Life raise a record-breaking $75,000 for Nashville CARES in 2008. Kastan said she hopes this year will set a new record.

Red Restaurant, the top restaurant contributor last year with a donation of $7,500, has again pledged 100 percent of their business from two meals, a Sunday brunch the weekend before the benefit, plus dinner on the Tuesday of Dining Out For Life; both Germantown Café and its new sister restaurant Allium are also giving 100 percent of dinner proceeds for the benefit.

“Nashville is very dedicated to its causes, to Nashville CARES," said Chris Lowry, of Germantown Café and Allium. "They never seem to suffer, despite any economic situation. With Germantown Café participating, as well as our new restaurant Allium, we hope to double the ($6,700) donation we made last year… I’ve looked at the list of restaurants, and I definitely see more donations of 50 percent."

While the donations from Dining Out for Life help support the programs of CARES, the one-night benefit also brings a sense of unity to the community, Lowery said.

“The restaurant has a very cheerful atmosphere (during the event)," Lowry said.  "We’re always busy, and the diners and staff exude this strong sense of community. It’s great."

Sponsors provide cash or donate services that enable wide promotion for Dining Out ForLife in Middle Tennessee.  Nashville Pharmacy Services (RxFD.com) stepped up generously to presenting sponsor for 2009.  Also returning are Associated Dental Group (3 years) and Wal-Mart's store at Rivergate (4 years). 

They are joined by new sponsors Beacon Federal and the Green Hills Chiropractic Clinic.  Nashville Scene, Out & About Newspaper, insideOut Nashville, Comcast, Lightning 100 and Graffiti Indoor Advertising are media sponsors. 

Nashville CARES offers a pair of tickets donated by Southwest Airlines as the grand prize in a drawing open to all who dine out at a participating restaurant that day. 

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Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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