It would be seen as an accomplishment for just about any organization to operate successfully for more than 30 years — but perhaps even more so for one that tackled a health issue devastating to the gay community.
The Poverello Center in Wilton Manors is in its 32ndyear, and while much has changed in the HIV/AIDS fight over time, its bowling fundraiser has not.
The 29thannual “Bowling to Fight Hunger” — on Aug. 24 at Manor Lanes Bowling — is one of Poverello’s biggest fundraisers of the year.
This year’s goal is to raise $45,000.
There are five health areas that bowlers can designate their funds to: HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. Organizers hope each category will generate about $10,000. One hundred percent of the funds raised will go to the health issue that is chosen by the participant.
The theme of this year’s event is “Looking Back, Moving Forward.”
“Without community [support] we would not [have been] here for 30 some years,” Poverello’s Live Well Center program manager, Brad Barnes, said.
“This is an opportunity for us to look back. HIV/AIDS has moved so much since then. It’s a different day,” said Barnes, who has worked at Poverello for 20 years.
Poverello was founded in 1987 by Rev. Bill Collins who died in 2017. Collins organized volunteers to feed those who were in the midst of the darker days of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The organization still serves those affected by HIV/AIDS, but have expanded the mission in order to assist those with other chronic illnesses and conditions.
The nonprofit provides food to about 4,000 South Florida clients — specifically “food as medicine.” In other words, it’s not your typical food pantry or food bank.
Food items are selected as “medically appropriate” from specialized choices, depending on a client’s condition and needs.
Food plans are put together for specific illnesses, there’s a registered dietician on staff, and set menus are produced with clients choosing 100% of the food they receive.
The service is not a prepared meal one, by design. Instead, the intention is to keep clients in as normal a routine as possible by encouraging them to cook their own food.
“Prepared meals are fine, home delivered meals are perfectly fine, but most people prefer to cook their own meals,” Barnes said, acknowledging some clients are unable to cook.
Poverello also goes on the road with its pop-up food pantries that can serve up to 100 people at a time.
In Barnes’ two decades at Poverello, he has worked the different areas of agency – Eat Well, Be Well, Live Well.
“We try and provide a community to break down the barriers of being isolated,” he said.
For example, Poverello used to operate the Friends Center, a gym for clients who weren’t comfortable working out in public because, perhaps, they had a sore on their face that was from their battle with HIV/AIDS.
As the disease changed, the gym eventually went away. Now, Poverello reaches out to ask area acupuncturists, barbers, masseuses, chiropractors and the like to volunteer a few hours of time to their clients each week.
Poverello also operates two thrift stores, one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Pompano Beach.
Polish those balls
The bowling event will have some cool features around the theme, Barnes said. For example, the center lane will be marked as “memory lane,” in honor of founder Collins, who used to participate in previous events.
Barnes said the person who raises the most money will “represent Father Bill.”
There will also be ribbons with the names of people who have died or are in the midst of battling a disease.
Barnes and the staff are tying the theme to the 1980s, choosing music and decorations to fit.
South Florida performer Tiffany Arieagus will emcee and Barnes is hoping she’ll show as a 1980s Tina Turner. Arieagus is also a director at SunServe in Wilton Manors.
Finally, Barnes wants the community to know they are welcome to come to the event to show support, even if they are not interested in bowling or are unable to bowl. There will be a raffle and auction for anyone who wants to participate, he said.
The cost to bowl is $50. To sign up or form a team, go to HungerFighter.org. More information about Poverello can be found at poverello.org.
Manor Lanes is located at 1517 NE 26thSt. in Fort Lauderdale.