By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City performance artist Sonja Martinez will host her 26th Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit on Monday, December 5, at The COPA, 2200 N.W. 39 Expressway. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. All proceeds, including tips, will go to support The Winds House in Oklahoma City.
In addition to Ms. Martinez, performers will include Roxie Hart, Alison Scott, Bebe Adams and Shae Porter.
“I have had the pleasure of having some of Oklahoma’s best entertainers with me throughout the years,” Martinez said.”They take time out of their busy holiday schedules to give the gift of love.”
Martinez began her own work to help support AIDS charities in 1991 after losing several close friends to AIDS.
When Jackie and Barbara Cooper were putting together Oklahoma City’s large Red Tie event after losing their son to AIDS, it prompted Martinez to start a smaller scale benefit for the gay community and hold it in a gay venue.
She began hosting small dinner shows at Oklahoma City’s Gushers Restaurant located in the Habana Inn and asked other local singers to perform with her.
Over the past 26 years, the Christmas Benefit has raised over $161,000 for the AIDS cause.
During the first 17 years the funds raised from Sonja’s events were donated to Loaves and Fishes, a Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels program. When Sister Gail Addis, who was active in that program, returned to Michigan, Martinez began donating to The Winds House in Oklahoma City.
“I picked the Winds House after meeting with some of their board members and workers. My dear friends, John Beebe and Richard Ogden had both been associated with the organization,” Martinez said.
“The Winds House gave us the option to focus our money on food, medication and other specific needs,” she added. “I liked that option, so I settled on the Winds House.”
Located at 1707 N.W. 17 St., 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 becoming homeless.
The Winds House program offers residents a chance to develop skills, find employment, seek educational possibilities, and help in applying for SSA Disability.
Winds House board member Camden Chitwood said, “At this event, you really feel the holiday spirit and the generosity of our community. We are grateful to Sonja, The Copa, and all of the performers for coming together to support the Winds House.”
As a result of her many fundraisers and generosity toward the gay community, Martinez has been awarded numerous honors.
She was given the Richard May Award established by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund in 2009 and in 2012 she received the Cimarron Alliance Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award.
“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 us in previous years; Tony Foss for his generous donation of flowers this year, 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,” Martinez said.
Tickets are $50 per person, which includes a $25 donation that goes to support the Winds House and $25 for the dinner buffet. Reservations are recommended and can be held by credit card by calling 405-525-0730.
To learn more about The Winds House, visit windshouseokc.org.