In November 1993, Carole Ann King threw what she intended as a one-off lunch at the Exchange Hotel in Darlinghurst for people living with HIV/ AIDS.
After working as an AIDS carer and losing friends to the disease, King hoped to give something back to the community.
Eighty-nine people turned up and they were all saying -˜same time, same place next week’, King, pictured hugging Lord Mayor Clover Moore, recalled this week.
When I woke up on the Tuesday morning I thought, -˜I’ll give it another burl so they can continue on with it.’
Twelve years on and the Luncheon Club -“ with King as president-“ is a community institution.
Its free lunches attract about 100 people living with HIV/ AIDS every Monday, and are believed to be Australia’s largest regular catering exercise for HIV-positive people in a single place.
About 45 clients receive free food and other essential goods each week through the Luncheon Club’s Larder service.
Having survived dramatic changes in HIV/ AIDS and seen four different homes, the Luncheon Club celebrated its achievements with a 12th birthday party in its current base in Waterloo on Monday.
The day drew about 200 people, including clients and entertainers of the likes of Monique Kelly, King said.
Special guests included Clover Moore -“ who attended the first luncheon back in 1993 -“ and other City of Sydney councillors.
It was really, really good. It was a great atmosphere and the entertainment was superb, King told Sydney Star Observer.
Every year is a major milestone for the simple reason that we are basically a volunteer organisation -“ volunteers create the atmosphere, they create the food, they do it all.
King accepted a $3,000 cheque for the Luncheon Club after being named runner-up in this year’s NRMA Helping People Awards, which recognise community service.
A generous long-term supporter has already offered to match all donations to the Luncheon Club, to a total of $20,000.
While the mood was buoyant on Monday, King said major shifts in HIV/ AIDS care since 1993 had brought fresh challenges.
Clients were living longer thanks to improved treatment. But that meant difficulties such as financial hardship.
-˜That’s the hard stuff now that we are confronting, King said.
But Peter Canavan, a board member of People Living With HIV/AIDS (NSW), said the Luncheon Club continued to provide an invaluable service.
They provide a really needed service within the community. It brings people together in a way that helps to reduce isolation and provide support and put food into people’s mouths, he told the Star.