3 min

Partying for food

Loving spoonful does it right

THEY NEED YOU. Many PWAs don't have money for food. Since 1989, A Loving Spoonful and its predecessors have stepped in to help. They can't do it without you and your attendance at events like the Jun 17 Warehouse Party. Credit: Nicholas Jang

The two women look out at me from a clipping of faded newsprint. Kim Campbell is one of them. She wears the jumbo pearl earrings unique to the early 1990s and a power suit with a naughty plunging neckline.

To Campbell’s left is one Easter Armas-Mikulik. She is radiant. And with good cause. This is Dec 16, 1992, and Armas-Mikulik has just received a Governor General’s “Canada 125” medal for directing and founding the Vancouver Meals Society.

It may be of interest to note that a few days before this photo was taken, Kim Campbell announced a bill to change the Canadian Human Rights Act. This bill would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Sounds good. However, in a bid to appease the rightwing, Campbell’s bill also defined “marital status” as being limited to partners “of the opposite sex.” The fallout continues today. And so does Easter’s more heartfelt, if less famous, project-though it’s now known as A Loving Spoonful.

Fifteen years is a long time to beat an issue. Just ask Sue Moen, executive director of A Loving Spoonful. Since Easter graced the first issue of this paper in August 1993 with her brassy smile and leopard print glasses, A Loving Spoonful has been doggedly feeding members of our community who-due to their battles with AIDS-can no longer manage alone.

What’s more, they branched into the Downtown Eastside in 1997, creating support between communities as well as within our own. About 60 percent of A Loving Spoonful’s clients today are straight.

Some viewed the change as an abandonment of gay men. But, in fact “we doubled our client numbers,” notes Moen. “We never left our roots. Wherever they live, these are people who will not die hated, spurned, alone. Because we will be there.”

It’s true, HIV/AIDS is no longer a solely gay issue and, arguably, it never was. All the more reason to teach those other communities what we’ve learned. They need us. And, more and more, we need us, too. The “manageable disease” doctors spoke of at the 1996 International AIDS Conference (held here in Vancouver) has become an exploded myth. The folks who Armas-Mikulik fed all those years back now take their meals through an IV at Saint Paul’s. It’s no surprise to the team at A Loving Spoonful: the cocktail is not a miracle pill.

And things are going to get worse before they get better. “It’s not a funding crisis yet,” warns Moen. “But it will be.” As executive director of a health organization in less-than-supportive times, Moen has made a habit of predicting the future. “I’m consistently amazed at how many people think AIDS is a non-issue,” she says. “We’re still here, damn it.” And so is the need.

A breakdown of the funding that keeps this non-profit in the green tells an interesting story about community: Twenty-three percent of their funding comes from the regional health board; 12 percent from corporations; 20 percent from individual donations; and 35 percent from events and parties. The largest portion of their funding comes from fundraising parties that local sports teams and others put on, donating their proceeds to A Loving Spoonful.

It’s a testament to our collective desire to celebrate, then, that this show still runs. About 200 individuals and families are brought meals each week, easing their lives to some degree. Keep in mind the organization is run by only three full-time staff members. (With a little help from its 200 volunteers.) But even more can be done. More must be done. That means (you guessed it) we need to have more parties.

And what better way to attract the queer dollar? It’s what we do. A Loving Spoonful’s fundraising Warehouse Party is Jun 17 at the Caprice (967 Granville St, tix at Little Sister’s). The beloved Symone will MC and go-go dancers are rumoured to make an appearance or two. DJ Quest will spin for the VIP party and Rob C will take over. That VIP party beforehand will include a fundraising auction. To donate (art! cruises! butt plugs!) contact A Loving Spoonful’s office.

“Another milestone’s gone by,” says board member David Goudge. The Warehouse Party is 100 percent sponsored by local businesses, so all cash donations still go to the meals. Supporting companies are: Urban Fair, Capers, Labatts Brewery, MAC Viva Glam, Holt Renfrew (they’ll be hosting the Warehouse’s fashion show), Nars Cosmetics, Clubcard, The Lounge, The Caprice Nightclub, Xtra West and Cruiseline. That support is essential to the party’s success. “Corporations put aside their normal policies,” says Goudge with a surprised laugh. “I’m very touched with that process.”

I like that newsprint photo I found of Campbell and Armas-Mikulik for two reasons. First off, it reminds me that the fight we fight today is an inheritance. That whether it’s marriage rights or the right to a warm meal, we owe it to ourselves to continue the work that precedes us. And then there’s the photo’s busy background. You can make out raised drinks, flashing lights and canapés. It’s one hell of a party.

Let’s keep it going.