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Friday November 21st 2014

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Feeding the Appetite for Life

By Jennie McKeon

Every Gallery Night is special in its own right, but Friday, Sept. 16, looking at art will have a bigger impact on the community.

As you may already know, Appetite for Life suffered a major fire during the early morning hours of Thursday, August 18. The kitchen was destroyed along with more than $75,000 worth of food. The community didn’t waste any time. From local businesses offering their services to the outpour of volunteers diligently scrubbing soot off of salvageable items, Appetite for Life has had a lot to be grateful for in these trying times.

“Good is coming out of this,” said Robert Bellanova, board president of Appetite for Life. “I am so proud of our citizens.”

Bellanova was actually out of town during the fire and didn’t return until that Sunday.

“I felt so futile,” Bellanova said. “They sent me pictures while I was away, but when I physically went there Monday morning it was so disheartening. Everything was blackened and charred.”

Thanks to Hallmark Elementary School, Appetite for Life clients still received their two meals a day. The school offered its kitchen to the nonprofit organization so that no one would miss a meal.

“That was the biggest blessing,” Bellanova said.

It was important to Bellanova and the rest of the Appetite for Life staff to ensure that clients received their nutrition, because the organization feeds those who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses. Appetite for Life serves more than 34 percent of the HIV/AIDS population in Escambia County and their dependents. Whether they are receiving home-delivered meals, making their bi-weekly stop at the food pantry or providing Ensure to those with a prescription, Appetite for Life nourishes the forgotten ones without government funding.

It was the Arts for AIDS Awareness that contacted Appetite for Life and put together an art sale to raise funds for renovation. The sale will take place at the Sole Inn and Suites, 200 N. Palafox St., from 5 to 9 p.m.

Of course, this isn’t just trying times for Appetite for Life, while there is still a recession buying art isn’t always a priority. However, if you buy a piece of art you will help Appetite for Life since 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the organization and go home with a memento of the cause.

“When you look at the art later it will remind you that you helped Appetite for Life,” Bellanova said.

It’s amazing what art can do. You can sell it to raise funds, or you can use it to spread the word. In 7-year-old Jasmine’s case it was news clippings. Jasmine took pictures and news articles to her local grocery store to spread awareness and ask shoppers to donate food. When she brought in the donations she created quite a stir.

“She brought in two cans and said she wanted to help,” Bellanova said. “I invited her in and we set the cans with the rest of the food and she said ‘I’ve got more’.”

When they get to the car, there’s Jasmine’s mom, baby brother and 436 cans and boxed goods.

“No one could say ‘no’ to her with the innocence of her face and sweetness of her intent,” Bellanova said. “It puts human back in the word ‘humanity’.”

Jasmine didn’t stop there. She took her news clippings to her school, Redeemer Lutheran Elementary, and now classrooms are in competition with each other. The classroom with the most donations for Appetite for Life gets a pizza party.

Maybe you don’t have the time to collect 436 food items like Jasmine, but whatever monetary value you can donate, whatever time you can spend to help clean up you’re helping people in great need of charity. For some of the Appetite for Life clients, one more meal means one more day.

“Our mission is to feed people that wouldn’t eat otherwise,” Bellanova said.

APPETITE FOR LIFE FUNDRAISER
WHEN: Gallery Night Friday, Sept. 16, 5-9 p.m.
WHERE: Sole Inn and Suites 200 Palafox St.
DETAILS: To donate art, call 850-380-2994 / For Appetite for Life 850-470-9111
info@appetite4life.org