Oscar Night Gala: Spokane AIDS Network’s Impact

This year Pride Foundation was proud to sponsor Spokane AID Network’s (SAN) 14th Annual Oscar Night Gala that took place on February 26th at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. Guests were treated to an elegant plated dinner and had the opportunity to bid on live and silent auction items while enjoying the live telecast of the Academy Awards.

I was curious what this event meant to someone who attended as client of SAN and how the fundraiser impacts the work and programs that SAN offers. I had the pleasure and honor to speak with Chris Baber, a volunteer and client of SAN, who attended the Oscar Night Gala.

Chris Baber moved to Spokane, WA from Arizona in 2007 and has been a client of the Spokane AIDS Network (SAN) since 2008.  SAN is a community based, non-profit agency dedicated to minimizing the impact of, and maximizing awareness about, AIDS and other consequences of HIV infection on communities and individuals in the Inland Northwest.

In addition to being a client, Chris volunteered with SAN for two years – up until a few months ago – as a cook in their kitchen where they provide hot meals for clients who drop in. Although Chris no longer volunteers for SAN, he continues to stay connected and involved and tries to keep in touch with many of the clients who are still there.

Chris attended SAN’s Oscar Night Gala, along with over 270 other guests dressed in tuxes and gowns. This event is SAN’s largest fundraiser and brings in roughly $15,000 – $20,000. I asked Chris how he thought the event went this year and he replied, “I thought it went really well and I think we had good participation. However, I don’t think that we made as much with the auction stuff as we have in the years past. I think part of that is because a lot of people are strapped for money, but I still think we did pretty well.” Funds received from this event helps keep SAN programs running and doors open.

Because of state budget cuts, many of the programs SAN offered have disappeared. This makes the Oscar Night Gala, along with other fundraisers SAN hosts, crucial in bringing in funds that help support the work and programs that are still offered. “I would probably still be lost if I didn’t have such a good case manager and the good programs.” Chris continued, “The most beneficial part is the Pantry program that they do twice a month.”  The Pantry program is unique in that clients have a choice of selecting 1-2 items from 10 grocery categories with multiple choices in each category to receive. In this way, clients take only the food they will eat. While clients are waiting for their selected items to be bagged, they are served a nice meal to enjoy. “Through the pantry, I receive food twice a month. Lately, because of hard times, it been the only food [in the house] we’ve had.”

Attendees all decked out for the occasion
All decked out for the occasion

SAN offers a wide variety of programs including Case Management, Treatment and Adherence, Medical Model, the Pantry Program, Emergency Food Support, INMx, HIV Testing and Counseling, and Advocacy. These programs are essential to the clients they serve. As Chris puts it, “They’ve helped me immensely. Donations and fundraisers are a big part of keeping these programs open. We appreciate everything we get.”

 SAN is a 501(c) (3) community-based organization serving HIV positive clients in our community since 1985. To learn more about them and other fundraising events, visit them online.

 Farand Gunnels is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Eastern Washington. Email Farand.

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