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Thanks to This Man, New Yorkers Are Raising a Ton of Money for Kids With HIV

 Joseph Macchia, actress Anita Gillette and Bernard Furshpan of the Metropolitan Room Photo by Maryann Lopinto
Maryann Lopinto

With help from cabaret performers, Broadway stars, even Project Runway designers, Joseph Macchia is getting teens and children with HIV the basic supplies they need.

Joseph with stage and screen actress Anita Gillette and Bernard Furshpan, managing partner of the famed Metropolitan Room (photo by Maryann Lopinto)

Joseph Macchia, the award-winning nightlife producer, is also the founder of Help Is On The Way Today, a non-profit organization that benefits children, teens, and youth living with HIV in New York City. We caught up with the sparkling personality to find out about the 2016-2017 season of Cabaret Cares, which stars performers from the New York cabaret community and Broadway community. Their upcoming Cabaret Cares fundraiser, an open mic hosted by Susan Winter and Deb Berman, will be at the Metropolitan Room on Wednesday, Nov. 2

Why did you decide to create a charity focused on young people? 

I started out years ago volunteering for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and I still do. One Christmas season, I wanted to do something for children living with the disease, so I was introduced to the Incarnation Children's Center in Washington Heights (New York), a home that houses 22 HIV-positive children year-round.  There I met a little boy living with both HIV and cerebral palsy. He was in need of a new motorized wheelchair, as his had broken beyond repair and the government agencies that could replace it had rejected the request. So I put on a benefit and raised enough money to buy him the chair. After that, I decided to start the organization to help other children in need. 

How do people find you and benefit from Help Is On The Way Today?  

Now, people find me through the clinics I work with — and we are always looking to expand. So we proactively reach out as well to local hospitals, schools, etc. and see if they have children who are in need. We recently added the Hetrick Martin Institute. They have about 100 children. Children benefit from our annual Back To School program — we send all the kids we work with back to school with school supplies and backpacks. We have an annual holiday drive where we provide gifts during the holidays — toys, essentials, and clothing. We provide scholarships for summer camp. Clinics contact us with a special immediate need for a child sometimes, and we try to do our best to provide what is needed.

Joseph with performers Lisa Ellex, Lindsey Holloway, Jennylind Stecker, Karen Mason, Gretchen Reinhagen, Jim Brochu, Anita Gillette, Steve Schalchlin, and Stacy Sullivan (photo by Maryann Lopinto)

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What has been your most successful fundraising experience? 

Our monthly performance series, Cabaret Cares, has a lot of word of mouth promotion and it consistently delivers. We don’t usually have auctions as part of the fundraiser every month, but we did a couple of times last year. Our Stacy Sullivan and Friends duets show raised the most money ever in one night at a monthly event. We raised over $3,600. That's enough to send three children to summer camp.

Why do you think it was so successful? 

Well, a lot of work went into it. Not only did Stacy perform an eclectic, well-produced show with several of her close friends from the cabaret community, she also served as a very effective auctioneer. With her genuine, charming smile, she told the audience stories about going to camp herself as a young girl, and how she wanted to be able to raise enough money that night to send three kids to camp — and she did. It was a big surprise for a monthly event. Another very successful event, many years ago, was a designer backpack auction. Fashion designers from Broadway,Project Runway, and more [each] designed one-of-a-kind backpacks that we auctioned. One of the backpacks was designed in sequins and fabric used from Michelle Obama's Governers Ball gown. I think our events are successful because people are confident that their money is going directly to children in need. People can come out to hear great music and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg — but it doesn’t take an arm and a leg to help someone. People feel a personal connection because we read letters from clinic directors and families about the kids and show a video with testimonials from the clinics we work with. 

What is your favorite part of doing the charitable work that you do? 

Seeing the difference you are making in a child's life, reading the letters we receive from families thanking us for providing something that most of us might take for granted, like buying a backpack. 

What has surprised you most about running an HIV related charity? 

It never ceases to be amaze me how uneducated people still are about the virus and people living with the disease. 

What's your advice to someone who wants to be help but doesn't know where to start? 

Find something that touches your heart and do something because you believe in it. And never, ever say you can't make a difference. You do not need fame, power, or money to make a difference. You need just a voice and a belief. I find more and more people are reaching out and having discussions about the disease and prevention. I think we need to be very open and continue to talk about it. Approximately 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2015 and 14 percent of those were children under the age of 15.

 

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