Five Questions with Tabu’s Freddy Shelley

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Bar manager and local author Freddy Shelley is on the verge of presenting his 50th fundraising event at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, all within the span of just one year. PGC blogger Alejandro Morales, who — full disclosure — also co-hosts a monthly comedy event at Tabu, caught up with Shelley to talk about fundraiser number 50, “Rise,” which will be taking place this Friday night.

PGC: 50 fundraisers in one year! Congratulations. What stands out from your experience doing charity at Tabu?

Freddy Shelly: Thank you very much. It’s been an exciting year to be able to work with some many diverse organizations in the community.

I think the thing that stands out for me personally is how quickly word spreads in the community. When we first opened, I spent a significant amount of time targeting organizations and reaching out to them to work together on fundraisers at Tabu. Within a couple of months, I was receiving emails from other organizations asking if we could work with them, too. In theory, 50 fundraisers in a year might sound like a huge task to some, but in actuality, it became very easy because so many people saw a good opportunity and wanted to jump aboard.

PGC: How does Tabu choose which charities to work with?

FS: We spent a great deal of time researching organizations in the surrounding neighborhoods in the city. Because Tabu’s philosophy is to welcome all demographics — gender, race, orientation, etc. — we made a point to approach fundraising using that same philosophy. We’ve featured organizations that deal with animal welfare, performing arts, homelessness in the city, humanitarian issues, gay-specific causes, women’s rights, literacy, and much, much more. Most of these organizations are specific to Philadelphia although a number are also national organizations.

PGC: How did the commitment to good causes come about at Tabu?

FS: Much of my corporate career involved a great deal of fundraising and staff-driven community service events, so the owners were confident that when I signed on to work for Tabu, I would be able to do a lot for the community and at the same time build a loyal following as a result. Most employers are hesitant in that type of business model — especially a new business — so the fact that the owners had complete faith in my abilities says a lot about their commitment to the neighborhood. I knew organizations would be happy to embrace us because most organizations need additional sources of income in this economy and for people to help advocate for their needs.

PGC: Why did you decide to name this event “Rise”?

FS: When we thought about the milestone, we knew we wanted to focus the night on HIV and AIDS, not only because it affects a number of people we personally know, but also because it’s an area that still needs our full attention and doesn’t always have it. If you ask people in the community who are HIV+, they will tell you they sometimes feel as though the community as a whole has grown somewhat complacent about the fight against HIV and AIDS, simply because there are fewer people dying now than ten or twenty years ago. I wanted to send a message to them that through all of our efforts that we will continue to fight for them. The word “rise” symbolizes something uplifting, and I think it’s important for anyone to approach any challenge with optimism and hope rather than doubt or defeat.

PGC: So what do you have in store for us this Friday?

FS: For the most part, it’s not going to be a huge spectacle. Oprah’s not going to come out and tell the whole audience that they each get a car. It’s basically more of the same — some free food, a free drink, some great music and good performances — and the knowledge that ten bucks can provide a good time and make a difference at the same time.

Rise,” Tabu’s 50th fundraiser, will take place this Friday, June 24th, at 9pm. A $10 cover comes with a free drink ticket, and half of the proceeds are going to Action AIDS and Philadelphia FIGHT.

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