While 2012 was a watershed moment for The Center, the actual turning point for The Center occurred during 2013. With a new and energized Board of Directors in place, we were actual able to hold a series of events that not only raised the awareness of The Center, but re-branded us as the focal point of the LGBT community. I do want to address a few of the highlights that occurred in 2013.
- The Center hosted a reception for all pro LGBT candidates who were elected in 2012. The reception was attended by most of the invited officials along with a large number of movers and shakers in the community, many of whom had never been to Center before.
- In March we hosted a Town Hall meeting to address issues raised during the oral arguments made before the US Supreme Court on DOMA and Prop 8. This was the catalyst that created an alliance to rally the community in anticipation of victory in the court.
- The Center successfully presented the first Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast that was attended by many local leaders in Central Florida. Guest speakers were Stuart Milk and Congressman Alan Grayson.
- An alliance that consisted of The Center, MBA/COWP, HRC, Equality Florida, ACLU planned and presented the most talked about rally in the history of Orlando – The Marriage Equality Rally attended by over 5,000 people the day after the US Supreme Court victories.
- In a joint effort with MBA/COWP, we presented a Town Hall meeting where a panel of experts addressed how the changes brought about by the Supreme Court would affect couples in Florida.
- Successfully presented Bingo at The Center, under the guidance of Ben Johansen and Tim Vargas.
- For the first time in three years, The Center was represented at the Centerlink Annual Conference by Michael Vacirca and myself.
- This year in COWP, The Center acted as ambassadors on behalf of COWP, along with presenting a float entry in the Pride parade for the first time in at least five years.
- The Center hosted another successful Black and White Gala under the guidance of Russell Walker.
- After a year of discussion, The Center is applying to operate a senior’s program under SAGE
- The Center has been appointed to the Orange County Domestic Violence Task Force.
- Appointed a new director of HIV program and an assistant director.
- The Center was honored by the Wedding Alliance for the work we have done in support of marriage equality.
- The Center was presented with the MBA’s Out and Proud Award.
- For the third year in a row, The Center won the Watermark Wave Award as most effective LGBT organization.
These are prime examples of how The Center has become the representative and spokesperson of the LGBT Community. No longer are we known as the place for free HIV testing or the host of several 12 step programs. But we cannot rest on our laurels…. There are many more programs and events to present, including Career Building and Resume preparation along with working on providing opportunity for GED studies. We are looking to again join with MBA/COWP for future community events along with continuing with our successful events such as the Harvey Milk Breakfast and Black and White Gala III.
Looking forward, The Center is in good shape. We are much better financially than we were a year ago; the building is sufficient but more room is needed to expand our programs. We are all looking for options to remedy this – however patience above all else must be observed. While we had to make numerous repairs and replacement of some fixtures, the building is still serving its purpose – providing a beacon for the community.
There are numerous people who are responsible for such successes, including our volunteers, Director of Operations, Volunteer Director and HIV Director. Their services are invaluable. But most of the credit for this year’s success must go the Board of Directors for providing the leadership, creativity and passion that has changed The Center and Central Florida.