By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City performance artist Sonja Martinez will host her 23rd Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit on Monday, December 9, at The COPA, 2200 NW 39th Expressway. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m.
In addition to Ms. Martinez, performers will include Roxie Hart, Nelle Neptune, Renee Hilton, and Mr. Gay USofA At Large 2013, O’Dey Davenport Brooks.
“I have had the pleasure of having some of Oklahoma’s best entertainers with me throughout the years who take time out of their busy holiday schedule to give the gift of love,” Martinez said.
Martinez began her own work to help support AIDS charities in 1991 after losing several very dear friends to AIDS.
When Jackie and Barbara Cooper were putting together Oklahoma City’s Red Tie event after losing their son to AIDS, Martinez decided to start a smaller scale benefit targeting the gay community and held in a gay venue.
She began hosting a small dinner show at Oklahoma City’s Gushers Restaurant and asked other local singers to perform with her.
To date, the Sonja Martinez Annual Christmas Benefit has raised over $100,000. The money was donated for 17 years to Loaves and Fishes, a Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels program. When Sister Gail Addis returned to her home state of Michigan, Martinez began donating to The Winds House.
“After Loaves and Fishes, we began a process of visiting with various members of the community to understand who did what,” Martinez said. “We were interested in giving the money to a local organization that actually helped people dealing with AIDS.”
“I picked the Winds House after meeting with some of their board members and workers. My dear friends, John Beebe, a fellow entertainer, and Richard Ogden had both been associated with the organization.”
“The Winds House gave us the option to focus our money on food, medication or other specific aspects of what they need,” Martinez said. “I liked that option, so I settled on the Winds House.”
Located at 1707 NW 17th Streetin Oklahoma City, The Winds House and The Winds Family House are owned and operated by the AIDS Support Program, Inc. (A.S.P.), a non-profit, privately funded organization founded in the 1980’s.
The two residences are part of a transitional program for individuals with HIV/AIDS who are homeless or who are faced with the imminent threat of going homeless.
The Winds House program offers residents a chance to develop skills, find employment, seek educational possibilities, and help applying for SSA Disability.
As a result of her many fundraisers and generosity towards the gay community, Martinez has been awarded numerous honors, including The Richard May Award, established by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund in 2009 and the Cimarron Alliance Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
“It takes the help of many people to do this event,” Martinez said. “I want to thank Nick Post and the COPA staff, who have always been great supporters. Rick Moses, who has graciously supplied flowers for years, as well as the entertainers who make this wonderful show possible.”
“Finally I want to thank my partner Dee, who also does a great deal of the background work to make the event happen.”
This year’s auction will include Oklahoma City Ballet tickets, donated by Roxie Hart and Robert Mills, artwork from artist Bernadette Martinez and gift certificates to Rococo Restaurant. All tips for the evening will also be donated to the Benefit,
“At this event, you really feel the holiday spirit and the generosity of our community,” said Winds House Vice President Camden Chitwood. “We are so grateful to Sonja, The Copa, and all of the performers for coming together to support the Winds House.”
Tickets are $45 per person. Reservations are recommended and can be held by credit card by calling 405-525-0730.
For more information about The Winds House, visit www.windshouseokc.org.