On Oct. 6, Eating Out Will Feel Even Better

The Dining Out for Life event that day will benefit Good Samaritan Project, which focuses on HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Restaurants will donate part of their proceeds.

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David Schlomer and Mitch Levine in front of The Good Samaritan headquarters. Photo: John Long

Most of us welcome an excuse to dine out. Six years ago, Good Samaritan Project realized this and started giving the community an annual reason to skip cooking for the day, called Dining Out for Life.

This year, the event will be Oct. 6, and it’s been a consistently successful fundraiser for GSP, which is the oldest Kansas City nonprofit agency devoted to the care and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Good Samaritan Project is an exclusive local licensee of the national Dining Out for Life organization, which was created in 1991 to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

This year’s goal for DOFL is to net $35,000, said David Schlomer, GSP’s chief executive officer.

Mitch Levine, who is assisting GSP this year for the event, said, (Juli, I’m getting his title and will drop it in after your edit.) “That comes from the restaurants’ participation, the guests’ participation and sponsors as well. … We ask restaurants to give at least 25 percent, and they can give as much up from that they want. All of our restaurants, for the most part, give the 25 percent. … We also have a drawing, and a lot of them give certificates to the drawing.”

Levine and Schlomer said that the fundraiser goes beyond the one-day event. To help with this goal, GSP is recruiting volunteers to be ambassadors at the restaurants and share information about the agency’s work.

“GSP provides one to two people in every restaurant that night to explain GSP,” Levine said. “We make it very simple to the restaurant. All the restaurant has to do basically is what they always do, to provide good food and good service, and we take it from there.”

Levine said that many of the restaurants have even asked the ambassadors to visit their staff days ahead of time to prepare them with information about what GSP does.

Schlomer and Levine said that although the restaurants are contributing a percentage of their revenue to GSP that day, it’s also important for diners to feel free to contribute money on their own, using the envelopes at the table, because it all goes directly to GSP.

Besides the ambassadors, the event also offers a Host Program and an Adopt a Restaurant program, Levine said. In the host program, a person can invite friends and family to share a meal at a participating restaurant. In the adopt a restaurant program, local businesses invite their staff members to participate at any of the restaurants, or maybe a particular one close to their workplace.

Levine said they strive to work with restaurants of various cuisines, prices and locations. The restaurants can choose whether they want their participation to be at dinner, lunch, breakfast, or some combination.

Formerly held in the spring, Dining Out for Life was moved to October in order not to conflict with spring fundraisers such as AIDS Walk in April.

Good Samaritan’s Truman Medical Clinic

Three years ago, Schlomer said, the Truman Medical Center Clinic at Good Samaritan Project opened in GSP’s Midtown Kansas City office, 3030 Walnut St.

At first, Schlomer said, it was only open part-time, one or two days a week, but now it’s open five days a week. Every day it’s staffed with a registered nurse, and on two days a week, it’s also staffed by a nurse practitioner. Truman handles all administration functions of the clinic.

“We offer free walk-in testing for HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia,” said Schlomer.

Testing is confidential, and they schedule people for appointments throughout the week, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., the testing operates on a walk-in basis.

“The clinic has a good flow of people coming in every day,” said Levine.

Before GSP even started raising money for the clinic, he said, the case management staff were asked to do a fairly informal survey of their patients by phone to gauge interest.

“We got a very good response rate, and from that, we could extrapolate that at least 25 percent of our patients would or might use the clinic. So I took that to Truman and they thought that was a good number, and so we entered into an agreement to start it going,” Levine said.

“We didn’t ask this question, but it came up anecdotally that many people said they would feel more comfortable coming to GSP because it is more anonymous here.”

He explained that the hospital is considered more of a sterile environment, while the clinic is more of a warm environment. He also credited GSP and its case management staff that can help clients with other needs such as transportation or food while there.

Both Schlomer and Levine said that the Midtown location’s convenience to bus lines is also a big advantage of their clinic.

Schlomer said that GSP must continually raise money for the work it does. It is one of four AIDS service providers in Kansas City, Mo., that benefit from the money raised through AIDS Walk and the AIDS Service Foundation. The three others are SAVE Inc., Kansas City Care Clinic and Hope Care Center.

“Federal funding is not increasing to keep the pace of the needs that are out there. Ours have actually decreased this year,” said Schlomer, referring to the money they receive from the Ryan White Care Act. “That’s not uncommon throughout the country.”

The clinic does not operate as a money-maker for GSP.

“We do not realize any revenue from this,” said Schlomer.  “It’s mainly a service we offer.”

Many people with HIV are now living healthy lives.

“We’re at a point where medications are farther along,” said Levine. “I think one of the GSP goals besides just the diagnosis and the case management to take your medication is how to live your entire life healthier.”

“It’s really more of a holistic approach,” said Schlomer.

For more information about this year’s Dining Out for Life, contact Mitch Levine at mlevine@gsp-kc.org or 816-931-4420.

To see a list of the more than 30 restaurants that are expected to sign up by Oct. 6, visit http://www.gsp-kc.org/doflhttp://www.gsp-kc.org/doflkckc, or Facebook.com/diningoutforlifekc. Levine said they encourage diners to make reservations, although it’s not required. Dining Out for Life will wrap up the day with an after-party at Missie B’s, 805 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo.

The Good Samaritan Project and its Truman Medical Center Clinic are located at 3030 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., 816-561-8784. For more information about the Good Samaritan Project, visit www.gsp-kc.org.