There’s 13 participating restaurants in Gulfport and Stella’s is the first one because they’re open for breakfast,” said Debbie Stevenson, right, an ambassador for the 13th annual Epic Eats/Dining Out for Life event that was held Thursday, April 26. The effort that spans the US and Canada combines dining out with the fight against HIV/AIDS. Restaurants typically contribute 25 percent of their meal revenues for breakfast, lunch or dinner and patrons often participate by making additional donations. Tampa Bay’s effort is named Epic Eats and the local beneficiary is Empath Partners in Care, a health group that provides HIV/AIDS services in the area. Barbara Banno, owner of Stella’s, is pictured at the left. “Hosting this event has always been an honor for me on many different levels,” said Banno. “I represent the LGBT community and this is my seventh year doing Dining Out for Life. I love being a part of this. It’s one of the events I look forward to every year.”
Everyone participating in the annual event received a sticker that said, “I dined! Dining Out for Life. Dine Out, Fight AIDS.” Pictured is a sticker on a breakfast plate featuring an omelet special at Stella’s in Gulfport. “The preliminary result so far from Gulfport is $5,475 just from table donations and I still have some envelopes to pick up from two of the 13 participating restaurants,” said Gulfport Councilmember Paul Ray who is one of the local event coordinators. “I suspect we’ll be up to about $6,000 or $7,000.” With the participating restaurants contributing 25 percent of their proceeds, “the numbers are way ahead of last year,” he said. Final totals will be available in a few weeks.