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Diana Ross to headline Mazzoni Center’s 30th anniversary gala in Atlantic City

by Matthew E. Pilecki
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 18, 2010

With summer rapidly approaching, the Mazzoni Center decided to hit the shore early to celebrate their 30th anniversary. The Philadelphia clinic will cap off a year's worth of celebration with a gala at Caesar's Atlantic City on Friday, May 21, that will feature Diana Ross.

Ross' concert at the Circus Maximus Theater will kick-off the event; followed with an exclusive backstage champagne toast with the diva in person. The celebration will continue at the Diamond Lounge with a two hour after-party featuring an open bar and hors d'oeuvres, music and oceanfront views. Sandy Beach will perform at a brunch on Saturday, May 22, but Perry Monastero, director of development and marketing at Mazzoni, told EDGE the event coincides with Harrah's, which is Caesar's parent company, mission to bring more LGBT-friendly entertainment to the seaside city.

"[Harrah's] is interested in making Atlantic City a more gay friendly destination," he said. "The folks at Harrah's and Caesar's Atlantic City are active in starting up a LGBT chamber of commerce. They're seriously looking into making enough of a gay presence in the area by supporting the organizations that are based there like South Jersey AIDS Alliance and other important LGBT organizations that serve people in the state, like the Mazzoni Center. Also, they want to have events--it's not just putting up a sign saying 'come here because it's gay friendly'--they're actually looking to make sure there are more things that LGBT folks can go to and feel welcome."

Proceeds from the event will go toward the Mazzoni Center's mission of providing medical, mental health, and legal services to LGBT Philadelphians and other disadvantage groups in the Delaware Valley--including a program the non-profit started in October that offers walk-in hours to homeless and uninsured youth.

"One of the things that has been a theme for the Mazzoni Center over the past year has been how do we take care of our lost youth," said Monastero. "We've discovered, sadly, that 25 percent [of the homeless youth between 14-21] that are being tested are newly diagnosed with HIV. However, almost all of them were put in touch with some sort of care. They then can go get a regular physician, they then can learn what services are available to them in the city or at the Mazzoni center-most of them choose the Mazzoni Center but some choose another agency because it's closer. Our role is to get these youth to find care and if it's not with us it's with someone else."

In addition to reaching out to homeless LGBT youth, Mazzoni began a strategic plan and branding campaign earlier this year with the goal of reaching a larger demographic. Monastero hopes these initiatives will educate uninsured women and families of the region on the broad ranges of services that the non-profit provides.

"We're discovering that we need to do a better job of explaining who we are and the range of services that we offer," he said. "It's frustrating to staff, and myself in particular, that so many women don't know they can go to our health center. Our health center is for everyone, it's a family practice-if you have kids you can come and you don't have to be insured. One of the things that will come out of the branding campaign is we're going to find a new way to communicate our broad range of services including our legal services in such a way that people can understand it."

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