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indoors, SRO Masquerage
Toledo--Celebrating their second year as part of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, David’s House Compassion threw a huge party on September 8, mixing the old with the new on a myriad of levels.
Both past and present Toledo City Council presidents spoke to the crowd, with gay former president Louis Escobar, now ARC Ohio’s newest Toledo-area board member, taking the stage just before Michael Ashford, the current city council president.
Also on stage were Toledo mayor Carleton “Carty” Finkbeiner and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, all of whom spoke of the importance of the work David’s House and ARC Ohio do in serving the needs of people with HIV and AIDS, as well as their prevention efforts.
The venue, the Secor Building, was also a blending of old and new. One of Toledo’s first luxury hotels, it is now being remodeled with gallery space, artists’ lofts and offices.
The event combined David’s House Compassion’s traditional SRO--Supporters Reaching Out--fundraiser with ARC Ohio’s Masquerage flair.
Last year was the first SRO fundraiser since ARC Ohio took over operations of David’s House Compassion, and the chilly night at the outdoor Centennial Terrace in Sylvania brought 250 people, including volunteers.
This year’s event, back in downtown Toledo, had 350 guests and 45 volunteers, including a contingent from New Life Tabernacle’s college group, the Gathering.
Volunteer coordinator John Ellis is a member of the Gathering, and he told event co-chair David Wishart that the organization plans to continue their involvement with David’s House.
“Boy, were they really great workers,” Wishart noted.
Chris Clymer, in his second year as SRO Masquerage co-chair and fourth year on the planning committee, said that the event began in the black, with enough corporate sponsorships to pay for it outright. With the auction and ticket pre-sales, they brought in another $22,000, although door sales of tickets were not yet finalized.
“The auction went really well,” said Clymer, who donated his artwork to the auction. “That’s where we made most of our money. And the liquor, because we made money off the liquor this year.”
The food was supplied by Divas Restaurant, whose owners also control the Secor Building. Their staff members volunteered their time at the event.
Clymer admitted that he had doubts about moving the party indoors.
“Actually, I thought it would have been disappointing, but this year it was a lot better with the climate and everything else, and actually it saved money,” he said, noting that it began raining about halfway through the evening.
He also pointed out that a lot of David’s House supporters live in or near downtown in places like the Old West End, and the David’s House offices are nearby.
With both Wishart and Clymer pledging to return to help plan next year’s event as well, which would be Wishart’s 15th year on the committee and fourth as co-chair, the question arises, what would they like to change for the 2008 event?
“I don’t think that I would change a thing, quite honestly,” Wishart said. “I think the mix that we had this year, the venue, the emcees, it all worked well.”
“If anything, I would double the number of people,” he continued.
Clymer had the same idea.
“The only thing I would change is, more people. I would hope to get at least 5,000-6,000 next year,” he noted.
While the event, with its theme of “Evolve or stand still,” was a hedonistic revel of food, drink, music and friendship, the reasons behind it are dire.
“Too often these days, public perception is that the [AIDS] crisis--at least in the U.S.--is over,” said Bill Hardy, executive director of ARC Ohio. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
He pointed out, as Escobar, Finkbeiner and others did from the stage, that almost 1,200 people in Lucas County are living with HIV, and David’s House will serve over half of them in the next year.
“HIV prevention and support services have never been more important, and to provide these, we need to re-ignite public passion and support for this cause,” Hardy said. “We hope SRO/Masquerage and our other future activities will help increase awareness and support for our work.”