Gourmet gabfest for a good cause

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January 27, 2003 // UPDATED 4:23 pm - April 27, 2007
By: sue rich
sue rich

Downtowners host party-fundraiser to help house those with AIDS and HIV. There's still time for you to join them.

Loring Park's Allen Brookins-Brown doesn't know anyone with HIV or AIDS who receives a home or support services from Clare Housing -- but that hasn't stopped him from raising funds for the Twin Cities nonprofit.

Not that Brookins-Brown -- a retired Prudential insurance executive turned published mystery author -- will rattle a tin cup. Instead, he'll fill cocktail glasses for 16 friends and family amid live saxophone music, Bobino hors d' oeuvres, a gourmet dinner and dessert from Palomino.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, Brookins-Brown and 1200-on-the-Mall upstairs neighbors Ron Pentz and Jim Rickert will host one of 38 Twin Cities "Friends Dining With Friends" dinner parties to help Clare Housing build a new 30-unit complex in northeast Minneapolis. (The group currently has homes in south Minneapolis and St. Paul.)

"I can't imagine what they've gone through," Brookins-Brown said of people who need Clare Housing. "I assume they've been abandoned by friends and family."

He hopes his own friends will open their eyes to appreciate their own good fortune, and open their checkbooks as well.

Brookins-Brown, who will host cocktails and appetizers before guests move up to Pentz and Rickert's apartment for a gourmet meal and dessert, said he gives to two dozen charities, but is very selective about his contributions. He is impressed by how much of the dinners' proceeds will go directly to the cause.

According to Clare Housing Executive Director Lee Lewis, just 5 percent of funds from this year's dinner will go towards event costs. Since party-throwers cover the cost of the food and drinks (or get restaurants like Palomino and Bobino to contribute), the only overhead for the organization is the paperwork it takes to keep track of hosts and contributions and send out the invitations. This leaves 95 percent of the anticipated $45,000 for the new housing complex.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the Minneapolis Community Development Agency will respectively kick in $1.2 million and $465,000 plus land development rights to cover most of the northeast Minneapolis housing project's costs.

This is Year Two for "Friends Dining with Friends." Last year, Brookins-Brown attended Pentz's soiree. By the end of the evening, he committed to hosting the first part of this year's domestic fundraiser. But it didn't take him long to get into the spirit of things.

"I have a very fine musician coming in -- Glen Grahm, he plays the saxophone and he's very good," said Brookins-Brown.

While his colorful, modern apartment faces what he refers to as "Concrete Maginot" architecture, he plans to distract guests from the view with his secret-recipe salmon souffle.

Of course, not all metro-area fundraising dinners will feature live musicians and gourmet meals. The menu and entertainment are as varied as the more than three-dozen people and families hosting parties. "One of the simpler parties happening is a chili feed," said Sara Leedum of Clare Housing. "Just a whole lot of chili, a whole lot of cornbread, and a whole lot of beer."

If you'd like to host a party, contact Clare Housing at 651-222-6409. While hosts do cover their own costs, they also receive a party starter basket featuring food and other items from local shops and companies. You can register to throw a party as late as this Friday afternoon. Clare Housing is also one of nine AIDS organizations participating in the four-day Red Ribbon Ride this July. Executive Director Lewis expects this summer's biking fundraiser to have a lower overhead than that of the Heartland AIDSride.