Partying with a purpose: to help feed low-income Philadelphians living with HIV

  • Mazzoni Center LGBT HIV AIDS Food bank Philadelphia

Mazzoni Center's emergency food bank has been a critical support for low-income individuals and families impacted by HIV in Philadelphia since 1989. The food bank serves 1,300 local households each month, and the overwhelming majority of our food bank clients (97%) lack the financial resources to meet the basic needs of their households.  

We are fortunate to receive funding for this program from many charitable individuals and corporate employee groups throughout the year, as well as charitable foundations including the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust; Broadway Cares; MAC Cosmetics/MAC AIDS Fund; the United Way; Bank of America Charitable Foundation; the Leo and Peggy Pierce Family Foundation; and the Wawa Foundation.  However the demand for our food bank runs consistently high, so we are frequently in need of additional funding to ensure that our clients have access to an adequate, nutritious food supply.

Last month our food bank received a special donation that will help us feed more clients in need this holiday season.  Lea Coyle and Wilson Steely dropped of 161 food items they had collected as part of the Bangarang art collective.

Bangarang, a Philly-based art and music collective, has been throwing monthly dance parties since 2011.  Their events tend to fall on First Fridays and are usually held at Trilogy nightclub on Spring Garden Street.  Coyle, an active member of Bangarang who coordinated the group’s gift to Mazzoni, explains that about a year ago the group decided to make philanthropy a more consistent and visible aspect of their events.
“We have always tried to give back artistically between friends and our creative community,” she says, “but not until last year did we actually start including the donating/fundraising aspect. We were trying to think of more ways to give back to Philadelphia.”

Their first fundraiser was envisioned as a one-off event, as Coyle explains: “I thought doing a fundraiser would not only benefit us and show we care about this city and the awesomeness that comes out of it, but also the non-profit we pick,” she says. “We are HUGE animal lovers here in Bangarang so doing a fundraiser for PAWS [their first beneficiary, back in 2014] seemed natural.”

The event was so successful, Coyle says, “We thought, why not incorporate this into our month parties as well?”

Event promoters aim to make it easy and practical for partygoers to participate: by identifying a charity or cause that fits with the theme of each month’s party, and encouraging guests to bring an item that will benefit that cause.  

“We started with Toys for Tots last December, which was a huge success, then books for CHOP’s Reach Out and Read Program last April, feminine products and household items for A Woman’s Place shelter this fall,” Coyle says.  

The group began using the hashtag #partywithapurpose whenever they are incorporating a donation drive into one of their events.  

“We’ve even done a trash super hero flash mob and cleaned up Penn Treaty park dressed as super heroes,” Coyle says.  “The whole point is that we love this city and want to give back. We also love to throw a good party so why not help out while we have fun?”

Bangarang had been interested in supporting Mazzoni Center’s work for some time, she explains.  

“We strongly support the LGBTQ community and have wanted to find a way to donate to Mazzoni for a while,” Coyle says.  “When we learned about your food bank, it was a no-brainer to have you be the recipients for our food drive, which was the theme for November.”  

She says giving back to others and strengthening community ties is a natural extension of the Bangarang philosophy.  “We've discovered one of our greatest-perfected art forms is creating experiences,” she says. “All of our events, the regular monthly parties as well as our quarterly special events, are really focused on interactivity and our community.”

Kieran Corcoran, who oversees the daily operation of Mazzoni’s food bank, was thrilled to meet Lea and Wilson last week and accept their donation.   “We’re extremely grateful to everyone at Bangarang for their generous support,” he said.  “It’s great to see groups like this take an interest in our work and follow through in a tangible way.  And we know that our clients will benefit from having access to more healthy and nutritious food items at a critical time of year.”

If you have an idea for a special event/fundraiser to benefit Mazzoni Center, please contact Director of Development and Marketing Perry Monastero at [email protected] or 215-562-0652 x 222.