AOF prepares for Oscar gala
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A San Francisco nonprofit that's raised more than $8 million for Bay Area HIV and AIDS charities over the years is preparing for its annual Academy Awards gala.
Academy of Friends, which started more than 30 years ago, will hold "Boas, Bowties and Bubbly" Sunday, February 24 at Terra Gallery. The Oscar viewing party begins at 5 p.m.
This year's Academy Award nominees include Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor in Lincoln and Jessica Chastain for best actress in Zero Dark Thirty . It remains to be seen whether Ben Affleck's hit, Argo , about the Iranian hostage crisis, will emerge as the dark horse winner for best picture. Affleck was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in the best director category, but the movie has already won top honors at the Golden Globes and from the Screen Actors Guild.
AOF board Chair Howard Edelman said the organization's six beneficiaries for 2013 are "putting their heart and their soul" into the gala, and "the energy level this year is just amazing."
The focus this season is on HIV prevention, and AOF started over this year with beneficiaries. It did invite back Maitri, which provides hospice and short-term care for people living with HIV and AIDS. Others partners are AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Larkin Street Youth Services, Mission Neighborhood Health Center's Clinica Esperanza, and Pets Are Wonderful Support.
"It's important to keep the focus on HIV/AIDS," Edelman said. "For us it's not about keeping AOF alive, but about helping other people and the community."
Lance Toma, executive director of API Wellness Center, said in an email, "We have developed a strong partnership with Academy of Friends over many years. They have been tremendous supporters as we have grown, particularly when we expanded last year to provide services to all HIV-positive residents, of any race or ethnicity, in the Tenderloin," which is one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
"We are thrilled to take part in this year's event," Toma said.
Edelman said the amount that AOF distributes to beneficiaries this year "really depends on people's generosity" when it comes to raffle and gala ticket sales, and silent auction proceeds. Those funds are set aside for the partners. AOF is hoping to raise a total of $95,000 to $150,000 from those three sources for the beneficiaries, Edelman said.
"It wouldn't make sense to have this event if we couldn't give away a lot of money," he said.
AOF has asked beneficiaries to participate by supplying volunteers for the gala and selling tickets, among other means. The amount each partner raises is tracked.
The organization is working to keep people who attend entertained.
This year, AOF will be holding its first-ever live auction. Items include two tickets to the finale party for the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race TV show. Former Drag Race contestants Pandora Boxx and Latrice Royale are set to perform at the AOF benefit.
"We're trying to get a younger demographic to come to the gala," Edelman said.
Len Broberg, a well-known leatherman and San Francisco police inspector, will be the live auctioneer. There will be dancing with a DJ after the awards show.
This year's venue, Terra Gallery, is different from where previous AOF galas have been held. Edelman said the space feels more intimate and would help drive down costs. AOF is hoping for a total of 1,500 people to attend, including 200 volunteers. Total attendance last year was 1,200.
Also new this year is the Send a Friend program. People can nominate someone to go to the gala for a $10 donation, which goes to the beneficiary. For every $500 raised, two tickets will be given away. AOF already had four tickets to give away as of mid-January.
Funds from corporate sponsorships and underwriters are used to pay for the gala itself, which is expected to cost over $100,000, Edelman said. Nordstrom is returning as the presenting sponsor. New sponsors include Comerica Bank and Swiss International Airlines.
Recent years had seen trouble for AOF, with beneficiaries receiving less than what they had expected from the nonprofit. But Edelman, who took the lead at the organization in June 2011, and others worked to simplify operations for the 2012 gala and continue to move forward this year.
AOF's board has 11 members, six of whom are new. There are two women on the panel. Edelman said he hopes to further involve the lesbian community.
AOF will have a pre-gala kick-off from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., February 20, at the Capital One 360 Cafe, 101 Post Street. Tickets for this event are $20 for guests; but free for beneficiaries, corporate sponsors, and underwriters.
General tickets for the Oscar night gala are $250. VIP tickets are $750.
For more information visit http://www.academyoffriends.org.