Cause & celebration: Elixir Co-Chair Bill Paszek on making Mazzoni’s annual gala a success
Bill Paszek grew up in an era when HIV/AIDS was a deadly diagnosis and recalls the atmosphere of fear and anger he felt in the 1980s and 90s. “I was a teenager,” he says, “and it left a lasting impression on me.”
Bill attended his first Mazzoni fundraiser six years ago, and began to learn about our history: that Mazzoni Center was the oldest HIV/AIDS organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the fourth oldest in the United States.
“I was impressed and proud that Philadelphia was among the first cities to provide the LGBT community with health services in response to the AIDS epidemic,” Bill says. “Learning that Mazzoni was there, on the forefront of the fight, giving care, education and hope when so many people needed it inspired me to get involved.”
He quickly signed on as a Mazzoni volunteer, and last summer Bill was offered to serve as co-chair of our annual celebration and fundraiser, Elixir: the Cure for the Common Gala, which takes place on Friday, May 20, 2016. Working side by side with co-chair Jessica Slack and the Planning Committee for the past eight months has exceeded his expectations.
“It always comes down to the people we work with,” Bill says, “and this year our Elixir Planning Committee is stellar. I have to give a big shout out to Jessica, of course, and everyone else who has contributed their time and energy to serve on the committee. And that’s not to mention the entire Mazzoni Staff whose work is what brings us together and makes it all worthwhile.”
As a leader in TD Bank’s Marketing Division, Bill spends his days working on new ways to reach people through technology, understanding their needs, and anticipating their preferences - a job he enthusiastically describes as “21st century marketing.”
He also recently married (which he admits “feels incredibly good to say!”), exchanging vows with his husband Justin in Key West, Florida on March 4, in front of family and close friends. While planning and coordinating an event of this scale - last year’s Elixir event drew some 400 attendees to the Waterworks -- requires a major time commitment, Bill says: “It's a great privilege to be part of something that makes such a difference in the community. There's also the added benefit of making new friends in the process.”
The challenge, he explains, is not just covering all the details but putting them together in such a way as to present a “fun, sophisticated, memorable evening for the guests - and a major fundraising success for the organization.”
“Mazzoni Center means so much to so many people,” he says, “and this event is significant in terms of supporting the critical work that the organization does throughout the year, providing quality healthcare and ensuring access for everyone, especially the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.”
Having experienced Elixir as a guest, volunteer, and now as a committee co-chair, Bill’s enthusiasm for the celebration and the cause that it supports is clear.
“If there's anyone reading this who has the notion to volunteer or get more involved in the community, I would encourage them to join us on May 20th,” he says. “This is one of the most fun, comfortable and inclusive events of the year - and you're sure to make connections with people who will inspire you.”