Darrell Tucci is the chief development officer for the Desert AIDS Project, and he spearheads D.A.P.’s annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser, taking place this year on Thursday, April 25.
“Last year, we challenged people to become part of the B.L.D. Club—to commit to having breakfast, lunch and dinner at Dining Out for Life restaurants,” Tucci said, adding that D.A.P. is issuing the same challenge this year.
I am proud to say I was part of last year’s B.L.D. Club … and then some. In fact, I went a little crazy (in a good way) last year during Dining Out for Life: I wound up dining—or, at the very least, buying a drink or a snack—at 11 different participants last year, starting with coffee and a scone at Ristretto, and ending my night with a Maker’s Mark and Coke at the Tool Shed.
A lot of people joined me in meeting D.AP.’s challenge, and then some: Due to the generosity of the 75 participating bars and restaurants, Dining Out for Life last year raised a whopping $280,000 for D.A.P.—$50,000 more than the year before.
If you’re unfamiliar with Dining Out for Life, here’s how it goes: Local bars and restaurants agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales on Thursday, April 25, to D.A.P. It’s that simple. Really. While D.A.P. volunteers will be present at most of the participating venues during the day—offering “I Dined” stickers and giving people the opportunity to make extra donations if they’d like—all people need to do to help D.A.P. is dine and/or drink at one of the participating restaurants and bars.
Find a complete and constantly updated list of participants at www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs.
Dining Out for Life is held on behalf of HIV/AIDS service organizations in 45 cities across North America on the last Thursday each April. Even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets—if not the smallest market—that participates, last year’s $280,000 was the second-largest amount raised in any city. Only Denver, which had three times as many restaurants participating, raised more money.
Why is Dining Out for Life so successful in the Coachella Valley?
“We have a secret sauce that’s a combination of a few important ingredients,” Tucci said. “First, the restaurateurs in our valley really embody our valley’s philanthropic nature.
“Second, this valley has been at the forefront of the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic since day one, and today’s inhabitants embody that. At Dining Out for Life, we see a dedication from attendees that’s almost like the dedication people have when going to vote.
“People wore that ‘I Dined’ sticker as a badge of honor, just like the ‘I Voted’ sticker on Election Day,” Tucci said about last year’s Dining Out for Life event. “We’d never ran out of stickers before.”
Tucci isn’t exaggerating when he touts the generosity of local restaurateurs; last year, the top three fundraising restaurants in North America—yes, the entire continent—were all located in Palm Springs: Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistro and Trio Restaurant.
Then there are the smaller restaurants that give literally everything they have, and then some, on Dining Out for Life day. Tucci said he was amazed, for example, by the generosity of the Holiday House Palm Springs last year: Not only did the restaurant give 100 percent; the owner then matched that 100 percent donation. And at Rooster and the Pig, the restaurant gave 100 percent—and the staff donated all of their tips for the day, too. Other 100 percent participants last year included The Barn at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and—at 110 percent—Townie Bagels.
“All of these restaurants that participate, whether they’re giving 33 percent or 100 percent—not one of them is making money that day,” Tucci said.
This incredible generosity is needed more than ever by the Desert AIDS Project. While the origination remains one of the top HIV/AIDS service organizations in the world, D.A.P. is now also much more: As a Federally Qualified Health Center, anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client, getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.
Seeing as more than half of the Coachella Valley’s residents now live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, D.A.P. is struggling to make sure everyone who needs quality health care in the valley can get it. To meet the demand, D.A.P. is in the midst of a $20 million expansion, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.
Every dollar raised during Dining Out for Life makes a huge difference. As for the aforementioned scone and coffee at Ristretto I bought to kick off Dining Out for Life last year … with Ristretto giving 110 percent of that sale to D.A.P., that $8 purchase wound up paying for three safer-sex kits. I went to Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill for dinner with two friends; we spent $120, and with the restaurant giving 50 percent, $60 went to D.A.P. to pay for three free, confidential HIV tests. I dropped in and had a drink with a party of about a dozen or so friends, most of whom were dining there, at Zin American Bistro; seeing as Zin donated about 75 percent of that check, about $340 went to D.A.P.—enough to house a low-income client for a whole month.
Follow me via the Coachella Valley Independent’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 25, as I try to match or even surpass my 11 stops from last year—and join me in visiting as many Dining Out for Life participants as possible. After all, the Coachella Valley has a lot of work to do this year to match the giving of last year.
For more information, including a complete list of Dining Out for Life participants, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/city/greater-palm-springs. If you know of a restaurant that you’d like to see participate in Dining Out for Life, get information at www.desertaidsproject.org/2019-dining-out-for-life.