FEATURE ‌ Recipe for Success 

Dining with Friends

Host Party
Wed. Mar 21
6-8 p.m.
Charleston Renaissance Hotel
68 Wentworth St.

Dining with Friends
Sat. May 5
For more information:
Lowcountry AIDS Services
843-747-2273 ext. 206

Dessert Finale
Sat. May 5
9 p.m.
Charleston Maritime Center
10 Wharfside St.

Not that folks in Charleston need any particular reason to throw a dinner party with friends -- read the society columns any given week to dive deep into the wide blue waters of Lowcountry gatherings, soirées, and events -- but doesn't attaching a good cause to a good time give the food, drink, and merrymaking just a little something extra?

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Karen Siegel, whose Lamboll Street Cabaret raised nearly $15,000 for Lowcountry AIDS Services (LAS) last year, sees helping others as a sweet finish to a great time. Siegel, who is also the spur behind the related Shopping with Friends annual fund-raiser, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of philanthropy but she sees no reason not to enjoy oneself while helping others.

"If you do what you love doing with your friends anyway, your event will be more successful," she says. "When I'm with my friends, we have the most fun just dropping in for porch parties, so for Dining with Friends, we decided to make it a major porch party." It was a major porch party, indeed, complete with Parisian-style streetlights, patchwork tablecloths, park benches, and over 250 people in attendance. "Whatever you do," she advises, "don't run out of wine."

Each year, over 100 dinner parties are held in honor of Dining with Friends, according to LAS executive director Bradley Childs. While those who would like to throw a Lamboll Street-style cabaret are certainly welcome to do so on their own block, Childs adds that events range "from one extreme to the other, everything from potlucks and cookouts to five-course, black-tie dinners."

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The fund-raiser, now in its 15th year, can bring in anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000 for the nonprofit organization. "The dollars raised through Dining with Friends go to direct client assistance," Childs says. "This means helping individuals with expenses such as medical visits, medications, and food."

Since 1985, LAS has been a resource, advocate, and voice for persons living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS in the tri-county area. In his four years as executive director, Childs has been, at times, overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people he meets at Dining with Friends. "Whatever we receive is so appreciated," he says. "Charleston is such a supportive community."


Here's the deal for those considering a party of their own: LAS provides the invitations (requesting donations from guests so you, the ever-gracious host, don't have to), supplies red ribbons, posters, and party advice as needed. You, the host, gather a crowd of your favorite friends and family members and proceed to break bread together -- eat, drink, make merry, solicit donations from your guests, and do a lot of good for people in need.

To sweeten the deal, there is both a host party at the Charleston Renaissance Hotel and a dessert finale at Charleston Maritime Center.

Charlie Smith, host for the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) party, one of the largest annual Dining with Friends events, typically sees upwards of 400 people gathering for his own party and is always happy to greet more.

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Above all, he stresses that, given the number and diversity of Dining with Friends events held throughout the Lowcountry each year, there is bound to be something that will suit the tastes of anyone who wants to be a part of it.

"You don't have to wear a black tie to be involved," he says. "I've been to hot dog roasts and oyster roasts. That's about as informal as you can get."


The City Paper wants to encourage our readers to host a party this year, because the only way the funds for Lowcountry AIDS Services will grow is if more hosts sign up. For one lucky reader with a good venue and a cadre of friends, we'll supply the food and together we can raise some money. To enter our contest to win a host party package, submit a 300 word essay telling us how AIDS has touched your life and why you'd like to be a party host. Also include information on where you would host your party and who would be attending. Send them to editor@charlestoncitypaper.com or mail them to 1049 Morrison Dr., Charleston, SC 29403. Deadline is April 13.


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