The Rapidian

Dine out and donate to Red Project

Dine out at a participating local restaurant on April 24 and support Red Project

/Grand Rapids Red Project

Participating Dining out for life restaurants

Amore Trattoria Italiana

Bartertown Diner

The Bistro

Blue Water Grill

Bostwick Lake Inn

Brandywine Restaurants

Brewery Vivant

Brick Road Pizza Co.

The Cheshire Grill

Connie's Cakes

CVLT PIZZA

Cygnus 27

Donkey - Taqueria

The Gilmore Collection's Gilly's

Grand Rapids Brewing Company

Green Well

Grove

Hall Street Bakery

Harmony Brewing Company

HopCat

J. Gardellas Tavern

Love's Ice Cream

Mangiamo!: Let's Eat

The Melting Pot - Grand Rapids

Notos Old World Italian Dining

Olive's Restaurant and Bar - East Grand Rapids

Propaganda Doughnuts

Red Jet Cafe

San Chez Bistro

Stella's Lounge

Wealthy Street Bakery

 

Can't make it to dining night out? You can still donate by contacting: Redproject.org

Kent County HIV statistics 2013

Kent County HIV statistics 2013 /Grand Rapids Red Project

For one night donating to a local non-profit group is as easy as buying a meal at your favorite Grand Rapids restaurant. On Thursday, April 24, Grand Rapids can support the community health organization Red Project simply by eating at a participating local restaurant. The event, known as Dining Out For Life, is an annual dining fundraiser for AIDS service organizations. Dining Out For Life is an international event that takes place in 55 cities across the United States and Canada.  

The event helps to raise awareness of the community outreach service work Red Project does in Grand Rapids and is one of two major fundraisers the local non-profit holds each year. 34 local restaurants are participating in the event this year and each restaurant will donate a portion of all sales to Red Project.  And there's more: A 50/50 raffle will be held with half the jackpot going to Red Project and the other half to one lucky winner. The five dollar raffle tickets will be available to purchase from Red Project ambassadors at the restaurants. 

“All money raised locally stays local,” explains Steve Alsum, Executive Director of Red Project. 

Red Project provides HIV and Hepatitis C counseling and testing as well as syringe access through their Clean Works program to individuals living in Kent County. There are an estimated 1,100 individuals living with HIV in Kent County, however, 1 in 5 are unaware that they have the virus.  Alsum sees this as a major public health issue facing Kent County. Testing is a vital step in prevention as HIV is usually transmitted from someone who is unaware of their status. If one is HIV positive then steps can be taken to reduce further transmissions and get the individual into case management.

The funds raised from Dining Out For Life will be used for such things as the Mobile Health Unit which provides Red Project access to a wider range of neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, and to help fund the Clean Works syringe access program as grant funding for such programs is restricted in the state. Alsum estimates that clean works spends nearly $25,000 annually on Clean Works supplies alone. 

Since its inception, the Clean Works program has had a tremendously positive impact on community health in Kent County. In 1998, 25% of all HIV cases in Kent County were injection related, today that number is less than 10% despite the fact that overall cases of HIV have increased. This increase only underscores the importance of the services Red Project provides to the community.

Alsum points out the disproportionate impact of HIV transmission on African American women living in Kent County. Despite the fact that the most affected population are white males, proportionally African American women are the most impacted (See graph in sidebar). An African American woman is 26 times more likely to be living with HIV than a Caucasian woman in Kent County.

Alsum believes that Hepatitis C will become a serious public health issue in the near future. There are an estimated 10,000 individuals in Kent County living with Hepatitis C with nearly one new case diagnosed every day. According to Alsum a large percentage of them are unaware of their status. Those most at risk are individuals who have had blood to blood contact. Alsum points out that the prevalence of Hepatitis C among the baby boomer generation (those born between 1945 and 1965) is very high, with 70% of cases in Kent County in this population group.  As the members of this generation age, complications from Hepatitis C will become a major health concern in the next 10 years. Red Project offers a testing for Hepatitis C as well as counseling on how to manage living with the infectious disease.

Despite these alarming statistics, the real importance of Red Project shines through in the positive impact and service the organization has upon the community. There has been a major reduction in the percentage of HIV cases among intravenous drug users; in the last three years Red Project has been able to expand its services to six days a week at five locations; and has even added a Mobile Health Unit to reach even more of those in need in the community. 

Rapid HIV testing services are also offered at all Clean Works sites and other partnering agencies such as the Kent County Health Dept. Individuals are able to learn their status within 15 minutes.

Possibly the most important impact Red Project has had in the last several years is overdose prevention.  In 2008 Red Project was able to train staff and clients on overdose prevention and as a result there have been 160 reverse overdoses since 2008. This is a staggering achievement as overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Kent County. 

Rather than ignore these issues, Alsum believes that the most effective treatment is to treat these individuals as human beings. “We want to form compassionate, trusting relationships with people.  The public health benefits are obvious,” he says.

Show your support for Red Project on Thursday April 24th by enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant. “It's easy for diners to support Red Project”, Alsum says, “Go out, eat and enjoy yourself and the restaurant donates a percentage of all sales."

Disclosure: I am a volunteer for Grand Rapids Red Project.

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