Women’s Event Raises $250K for NYC’s LGBT Center
While Hurricane Sandy certainly put a dent on the New York LGBT Center’s 15th Annual Women’s Event, despite hampering ticket sales, the community eventually rallied. Over 350 people gathered at Three Sixty in Tribeca to raise an impressive $250,000 for Center Women’s Programs.
"We had a hurricane, a critical election and a nor’easter all in the past two weeks," said Center Executive Director Glennda Testone at the event. She went on to thank the two co-chairs, Lisa Linksy and Stephanie Battaglino, Center board members, staff and volunteers who managed to pull the event together. "To have an entire night devoted to honoring women who shine a very bright spotlight on the entire LGBT community is a privilege," Testone added.
Among those honored were MAC Cosmetics’ Nancy Mahon, the players of the WNBA team New York Liberty and two executives from JPMorgan Chase, Cindy Armine and Lori Littell-Pape.
Mahon, senior vice-president at MAC and global executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, has overseen more than $38 million dispersed annually throughout the world.
Mahon gave a shout-out to one of the Center’s signature programs when she pointed out that she and her partner took parenting classes there. "We can’t take the Center for granted," she told guests.
When she was a young sorority girl questioning her sexual orientation, Center Board Member Aimee Saginaw recalled standing outside the Center for hours while she pondered whether or not she dared to go inside.
"That was 22 years ago," she said. "In the years since, we as a community have come out in droves. We’re beginning to win elections, we’re starring in television shows. There are even some out girls in sororities now, I’ve heard. And we’ve even won the right to marry."
Saginaw then pointed out Edie Windsor, who has become the focus of an epochal legal battle with possible far-reaching repercussions.
Windsor and her partner Thea Clara Spyer were together for 42 years when Spyer died in 2009. Windsor faced an inheritance tax bill that, she said, was $360,000 more than a heterosexual widow would have had to pay. In mid-October, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, and that Windsor shouldn’t have to pay an unfair inheritance tax. The matter will eventually go to the Supreme Court.
Holding a basketball aloft with a face painted on it, Linksy admitted that she had always wanted to be a pro-basketball player. "But I had two things in my way," she said. "One, I stopped growing when I was 12. And two, you’re supposed to get the ball through that macramé thing, and I just couldn’t."
So Linsky never got to play pro. But the ladies of New York Liberty do, and they do it very well. The team received the Center Activists Award for ongoing efforts to promote acceptance in the world of pro sports. Out-lesbian athlete Sue Wicks became an icon during her tenure with the team from 1997 to 2002.
Wicks, who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, accepted the award on behalf of the entire team. "It has been wonderful creating a community where people can go and be yourselves, bring your girlfriend, bring your family, and cheer for the New York Liberty," she said. "When I came out around 2001, I almost felt as if I had betrayed my team, betrayed the WNBA, because we were trying to sell tickets. But I saw so much suffering around me from children who contemplating suicide and struggling with their identity, looking for a role model. In my heart of hearts, I knew that if I stood up on the side of right, you always do well in the end."
Although the flood waters have receded, the effect on the most vulnerable members of our community are still very much being felt. The Center was without electricity for a week and had to close.
Among those displaced by Hurricane Sandy were the clients of Ali Forney Center’s Drop-In Center. Ali Forney is the city’s organization that provides services and much-needed help to LGBT homeless teens.
When Ali Forney found itself stranded, the Center came to its aid. It has offered its West 13th Street building as a substitute until the group can raise the funds to reconstruct its own facility.
"The Ali Forney Center’s Drop-In Center was devastated by the storm, they couldn’t go back and they couldn’t serve the kids that really needed help. We spread the word and within days they were able to serve those vulnerable, homeless, LGBT youth," Testone said. "We were able to give them the one thing that they needed most: a home."
For more than 30 years, the Center has been providing such vital services to all of LGBT people and their allies from all over New York City and the region. Today, it welcomes 6,000 people each week to its programs.
The assembled guests in Tribeca responded to Testone’s passionate message by bidding on the many silent auction items, which included fine art prints, a workout package to David Barton Gym, spa services, a family portrait, the complete DVD collection of "The L Word," a collection of lamps by Adesso, culinary packages, books by Arianna Huffington, a Manhattan date night package, Brooklyn Nets tickets, a shopping spree, and a bowling package for 10.
In the live auction, guests bid on the opportunity for the winner and four friends to attend a New York Liberty practice, a catered lunch with the players and a signed jersey for the winner. It went for $4,000.
Four tickets to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Cinderella" on Broadway, which included a backstage visit and dinner, went for $3,200. Four tickets to the 2012 "Radio City Christmas Spectacular," plus a meet and greet with the long-legged Rockettes and dinner at Harry Cipriani, went for $2,400.
Both silent and live auction items raised funds for Center’s women’s programs such as Center Families, the LGBT Foster Care Project, the Lesbian Cancer Initiative, the Gender Identity Project, counseling and marriage resource programs.
’Home Improvements’ at the Center
"We’re certainly seeing a higher demand for our services at the Center after the hurricane, but there was a high demand for what we do to begin with," said Testone. "People tell us time and time again that they consider the Center to be a home, and this year we are actually going to be doing some home improvements."
Later this year, the renovation will break ground after years of fundraising and focus groups, surveys and one-on-one conversations.
The expanded lobby will include a café, an upgraded cyber center and new front doors. The Lerner Auditorium on the third floor and the Kaplan Assembly Hall on the ground floor will finally get permanent audio-video equipment and more sophisticated lighting, among other much-needed additions. Public corridors and meeting rooms will get new flooring and lighting, and some new public meeting rooms will be added. Elevator cab and controls will get upgrades.
Outside, the Center’s garden will get a long-overdue reworking. It will be repaved and get new seating and lighting.
Construction will render some auditoriums and meeting rooms out of commission on a rotating basis. The entire project is scheduled for completion around mid-2014. But the result will be latest round of improvements on an ancient public school building that has become the mainstay of the many communities that make up New York City’s LGBT community.
For more information or to donate to Center Women’s Programs, visit www.gaycenter.org