by Jessica Carreras
For AIDS Partnership Michigan, Valentine’s Day isn’t about boxes of chocolates or tear-inducing Hallmark cards. It’s about honoring their nearly three decades of work – begun on Feb. 14, 1983 – helping metro Detroiters with HIV/AIDS.
And this year, they’ll have a little help celebrating from the Motor City’s own Avalon International Breads.
APM Executive Director Barbara Murray and Avalon owners Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault go way back. So when the old friends began talking in December about the need for businesses to work together during tough economic times, the union between the two seemed as flawless as a perfectly baked loaf of bread.
“We’ve really never done anything like this really for anyone,” Victor mused about the Share the Love campaign, which promises that a percentage of proceeds from Avalon’s February sales will go to APM.
“We sponsor a lot of events, we give a lot of contributions, both in-kind and sometimes in cash,” she added. “But we’ve never done something where we’ve had a specific item that’s benefited a specific organization.”
Those items are Valentine’s Day cookie and brownie tins – but they’re no Tollhouse treats. Instead, buyers can nosh on chocolate-cherry cookies, heart-shaped shortbread dipped in chocolate, sea salt chocolate chip cookies and Avalon’s Amazing Amazon Brownies. Or, if they choose, the tins make great presents. But who wants to share?
But Avalon hasn’t stopped at these tempting tins. There’s also a chance for every shopper – love-struck or not – to contribute to APM throughout the rest of the month, whether it’s one dollar or a thousand.
And, adds Victor, the month of sharing the love peaks with a Feb. 14 birthday party for the 27-year-old AIDS organization, complete with a chocolate brownie “cake” and a day full of sales partially benefitting APM.
Victor and Murray both hope that the three-pronged approach to February giving yields both much-needed funds – and some new supporters for both lesbian-run businesses from the LGBT community and beyond.
“I think our role is to really extend outside that base that already knows about (APM), both in the larger community, but also in the GLBT community,” Victor explained. “We want to draw attention both to the issues and to the organization (from people) who would not ordinarily be thinking about them.”
And for these women, the issues include love for their hometown. The Detroit-centric two are some of the most passionate city supporters one could ever hope to find, which is why the choice to keep their efforts in the area they love was an easy one.
“We’re two businesses that are very, very committed to the city of Detroit and it’s really important that we support the city,” Murray said.
For Avalon, it’s nothing new. Victor and Perrault have been known to hire, help and donate within the LGBT community – specifically in Detroit – since their inception. It’s a quality about them Murray said she admires. “It’s just a reflection of who Ann and Jackie are in supporting the community, as well as running a bakery,” she gushed about the Avalon owners. “That’s the sense that business has, is that it’s an integral part of the community. It’s not just a for-profit company that makes money and walks away.”
Victor said supporting APM just made sense to her and Perrault. In a time of need around the world, they chose to focus their efforts locally. “I don’t think AIDS is on the top of people’s lists; they’re focusing on Haiti, they’re focusing on the economy, they’re focusing on just helping each other make ends meet during these tough times – all of which are very important,” she said. “But when there’s an organization that’s so effective and doing work that’s so important … then it makes sense for us to use our visibility and our access to the larger community to bring people’s attention back to it.”
Murray is optimistic that their mutual respect for each other and love for their community will rub off on others. “Frankly, the economy sucks,” she said bluntly. “You have to be reminded sometimes that working together makes a whole lot of difference about how that feels. You’re not alone.”
Even if, this Valentine’s Day, you’re single.
Want to share the love this February?
Visit Avalon International Breads, located at 422 W. Willis in Detroit, and make a contribution to AIDS Partnership Michigan, either in cash or by purchasing a Valentine’s Day treat tin, priced at $30-40 each. Or call Avalon Bread at 313-832-0008.