Woody’s Partners with MANNA to Deliver Meals to People with HIV/AIDS
One of Philadelphia’s gay Meccas has decided to give back to their local community.
Woody’s staff visits the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance on Ranstad Street once a month to help either prepare meals or package food in MANNA’s kitchen for families living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.
Both Woody’s general manager Matthew Ricciotti and Woody’s owner Michael Weiss have delivered food for MANNA, while other staff members have volunteered their time beyond the one-day-a-month minimum.
"The first time we went, we packaged 1,800 meals in under two hours. [MANNA was] really impressed with us," said Ricciotti. "Being in the bar business all you do is constantly work. We didn’t complain, and we got it done. [The work given] is as simple as chopping onions and celery. There’s normally 12-15 of us that go, and it’s one of those things that is a bonding thing, and you’re helping out."
The group usually consists of five to six regulars who come every month. "It’s always nice to see other bartenders or security or barbacks come because it gives you that one-on-one that you normally don’t get," said Ricciotti.
According to Woody’s bartender Jason Evans, it’s a time where co-workers can congregate outside of the bar.
"When we go [to MANNA] we all know each other, and when it’s done we go out and get something to eat afterwards," he said. "The work is not easy. Last time we chopped onions, but we got through it," he continued.
Recounting his first time with MANNA, Ricciotti said it took him time to adjust. "For me going out and delivering was hard because you see how people who are less fortunate are living," he said. "They look forward to that interaction every week because they normally don’t get that... but the more you do it, the closer you are to them. And it’s the same in the kitchen. The people who work with us in the kitchen we’re friendly with, and they’ll come to the bar and hang out with us. There’s a sense of community. We love working with them, and hopefully they love working with us."
In order to serve the approximately 1,000 people who receive food three times a day, seven days a week, MANNA must prepare and package about 1, 500 meals a day. Glenda Cooke, who manages MANNA’s volunteers, noted that Woody’s is the only bar to work with her organization.
"They are of great service to us," she said.
Over the period that the program has been active, Woody’s volunteers have become quite popular with MANNA staff.
"They have a ball in there," said Cooke. "It’s like a party ... that’s without the alcohol, so they really do have a lot of fun in there."
Woody’s also works with the Attic Youth Center and Washington West Project, giving free admission cards to those who get tested anonymously. In addition to these partnerships, a group of staff members who participated in the annual Philadelphia AIDS Walk raised roughly $2,000.
"We can give donations, we can have open bars and invite people into the club, but [working with MANNA is] the first time that a bar has said, ’alright, we’re going to go out and give our time," said Ricciotti. "I know it’s only two to three hours a month, but it’s perfect.’"
To thank programs and organizations with whom Woody’s has worked, the bar will hold its first Charity Ball on Friday, Dec. 23, with an open bar and dancing in appreciation of volunteerism in the community.