WNCAP calls on Asheville to “dine out for life”

By Katelynn Watkins, Staff Feature Writer, kwatkins@unca.edu | April 20, 2015

Going out to dinner is normally a social, collective experience. Family and friends dine out to celebrate a birthday, or a holiday, or just to end the day on a high note.
On April 30, going out will be even more of a social activity than usual. Throughout seven counties of Western North Carolina, restaurants will be donating 20 percent of their profits from the day to the Western North Carolina AIDS Project for Dining Out For Life, said Jesse Vest, special events coordinator at WNCAP.
“Between 50 and 60 of the 110 participating restaurants are in Asheville,” Vest said.
The event, which is held annually in 55 cities in the United States and Canada, is in its 13th year of partnership with WNCAP, Vest said, and only one organization in each participating city can be the beneficiary of Dining Out For Life each year.
Harry Brown, volunteer events chair of WNCAP, has been a part of the organization’s campaign with Dining Out For Life since the beginning. Before he moved to the area from Atlanta, Brown said, the organization wasn’t taking advantage of the event’s potential.
“I remembered it being so successful in Atlanta,” he said, “so with all of the great food here I thought it had to be worthwhile to try it.”
Every year, Brown said his goal has been to make one more dollar than WNCAP did than the previous event. In 2014, Dining Out For Life raised $176,000.
“So if we get $176,001 this year I’ll be happy,” he joked.
The organization has been fortunate enough to have Prestige Subaru as a local sponsor and Subaru of America as an international sponsor of Dining Out For Life for a number of years. This year, the campaign stepped up its game to include celebrity activist partners, Vest said.
“Mondo Guerra from Project Runway agreed to shoot a promotional video in Asheville with Subaru, so that was really cool to have him out here showing his support,” she said.
Guerra worked with Anthony Pelle, Prestige Subaru’s marketing director,, to put together the video for this year’s Dining Out For Life and disseminate it to promote the event among the Western North Carolina counties.
“With more than 100 local restaurants participating,” Pelle said, “it’s easy enough to go grab some great local eats while helping out a great cause in the process.”
As far as event participation goes, applications for ambassadors are still rolling, Brown said. Ambassadors are volunteers who take one meal shift at a participating restaurant, armed with promotional and informational materials, and make sure every diner, potential or actual, knows why they’re there and exactly what they’re doing for others just by eating out that day.
This year, Vest said, WNCAP is already up to more than 250 volunteers.
“It’s really a win-win, for both WNCAP and the restaurants,” she said. “It’s incredible, the community support we receive each year.”
Out of all the participating cities, Brown said WNCAP was No. 1 out of five organizations, in revenue generated during Dining Out For Life last year, beating out Atlanta, Brown’s former home.
“I’m confident we can keep this up,” Brown said. “The generosity of Western North Carolinians is incredible.”
For students in the Asheville area, plenty of restaurants will be participating, including The Hop, Urban Burrito, and Rise ‘n Shine Café, Vest said.
So on April 30, friends and family are invited to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner and be as social and connected as possible.

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