By Nancy Varekamp | CNews Editor
According to Katie Ugolini, raising funds for a valuable community resource can be as easy as enjoying a meal in a local restaurant Thursday, April 30.
That’s the concept behind Dining Out for Life, and it’s what you’ll find her doing that evening.
She and husband Chris Lopez serve as ambassadors each year at a participating restaurant. They invite friends and acquaintances to join them, greet diners and generally spread the word about Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s HIV Day Center in Concordia.
Check Facebook.com/groups/ConcordiaPDX the week beginning April 23 for a list of local participating restaurants.
The restaurants donate 20-35% of each diner’s bill to Dining Out for Life to support that day center and the OHSU Partnership Project. The organizations provide vital programs and services to area residents living with HIV.
Supporting the day center isn’t on Katie’s calendar just one evening a year. For about 10 years, she’s been a Friday breakfast volunteer. She arrives in time to take orders, serve the meals and more.
“Just washing dishes make me feel like I’m doing something. It’s often my favorite day of the week,” she explained. “It’s important to give back to people who have been marginalized and to ensure they are seen and heard.
“I think the stigma of AIDS and HIV still keep people from seeking services,” she added. “Here people are respected and feel safe. And they’re so supportive of each other.”
Volunteering and fundraising is nothing new for the former CNA chair, board member, social committee chair and still active participant. She became aware of the day center when fellow CNA veteran George Bruender invited her to an annual AIDS Day breakfast at Concordia University.
The center’s clients spoke about what the center means to them.
“It definitely moved me,” Katie said. “It’s such an open, welcoming community for people.”
The HIV Day center opened 30 years ago. It’s the oldest free-standing, multi-service, drop-in center for lowincome people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, according to Katie. (See the related CNews article.)
Among the myriad services offered is foot care, currently provided by Concordia University nursing students. “Some remain as volunteers,” Katie said.
Her day job is as a psychologist, so Katie is accustomed to hearing people’s stories. At the day center, she is a friend and volunteer.
“The clients are very inspiring,” she pointed out. “I feel so grateful to meet them and so honored to hear their stories.”
Nancy Varekamp is semiretired from her career in journalism, public relations and – her favorite work engagement – writing and editing targeted newsletters.