Hope & Help takes Orlando AIDS Walk into twilight

By : Billy Manes
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Hundreds, perhaps thousands (we haven’t confirmed numbers yet, but there were quite a few people) showed up to support the Hope & Help AIDS walk April 15.

The walk, which involves ambulating two laps around downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola, was especially important this year. Following the Pulse shooting last year and the election of a seemingly hostile president in November, it was important to let people know that the LGBTQ community and its allies are still paying attention to the HIV/AIDS issue.

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Equality Florida honors community heroes at 2017 St. Pete Gala

By : Jeremy Williams
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Equality Florida had another successful St. Pete Gala at The Mahaffey Theater as the celebration the 20th year of the LGBTQ rights organization continues.

The evening honored Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith, attorney Joanna Garcia Parkin and volunteer Karen Goforth.

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Watermark’s running list of Pulse fundraisers, vigils and memorials

By : Watermark Staff
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A number of organizations and individuals are putting together fundraisers events and vigils to benefit those affected by the Pulse shootings, be they injured victims, family members of the deceased or Pulse employees, all of which will need significant financial support in the coming months.

Because Orlando is such an engaged, supportive community, the events are being scheduled quickly and there are a considerable number of them. If you know of any we missed, please feel free to comment and let us know so we can add them to the round-up. This page is updated daily.

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Uprisings: Not OK, computer

By : Billy Manes
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Uprisings_JebBushOh, the headlines. Oh the damage control. Oh, this election cycle that is whittling itself into obtuse ignominy before our very eyes. This is hell. In the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the gloves coming off and the chandeliers swaying in an increasingly heated presidential-preference primary season, mostly because that’s what happens every four years and we should be accustomed to it. But it’s also because when manufactured candidates get closer to the truth, it’s almost like their wings melt, and the clashes of titans become more like stutters in rehearsed lexicon pools.

Case in point: the Feb. 5 Republican debate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a Saturday, and we all know that Saturday nights are all right for fighting, so the presence of playground bullies like Donald Trump and Chris Christie wasn’t a surprise. The popcorn was already burned; the rotgut already crystallized at the bottom of a red Solo cup for later tosses into regret fires. But Rubio – oh, our poor, poor former state House speaker and author of books sold at Wal-Mart on the cheap – he wasn’t quite ready, really, and the whole of the news media and the Republican slam book was on alert. Rubio, who is loved for no reason by the Log Cabin Republicans and people who don’t like politics alike (he’s cute from a distance, really, but there’s no need to get any closer), pulled a robotic Small Wonder and waivered from his fresh-faced political sprint. There in the miniature shadow of the New Hampshire primaries, Rubio went on autopilot, pulling an attack on sitting President Barack Obama, even though said sitting president is not even in these primaries.

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LGBT charity raises enough money to buy out anti-gay church

By : Staff Report
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Harlem, New York – The Ali Forney Center met a $200,000 fundraising goal in less than two weeks.

Donations poured in following news that vocally anti-gay Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church will face foreclosure auction on Feb 24. The charity quickly expressed interest in buying the building.

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Philanthropic organizations are rallying for more LGBT donations

By : Stephen Miller
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More fundraisers are seeking LGBT funds, and not just from and for our own community.

LGBT people keep coming out, getting involved, marrying and mainstreaming –growing more acceptable in the larger society. Because of this, many fundraisers are reaching out with targeted marketing. It’s a significant shift from once quietly refusing LGBT donations or disregarding us to ones that now actively court our community.

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After a yearlong delay, renovated GLBT Center set to open in February

By : Jamie Hyman
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Sometimes, a fire escape is a simple safety mechanism. But sometimes (or this time), it’s the final piece in the much-anticipated, long-delayed renovation of the GLBT Center of Central Florida’s headquarters, located on Mills Ave.

The fire escape isn’t solely to blame for setting the project back about a year longer than planned. “The building was built in 1941,” says Terry DeCarlo, executive director of The Center. “There have been no major upgrades or renovations until this came about. Code enforcement in 1941 was a lot different than [now], and we had to bring everything up to code.”

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Catering to our needs: Michael Thomas cooks up a culture of giving

By : Jamie Hyman
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If we were to list all of the organizations who receive donated catering from John Michael Catering, readers would click away because who wants to read a list of dozens of names? That relentless generosity is why company owner Michael Thomas is a 2015 pick for Watermark’s Most Remarkable People.

Thomas’ company closed out 2014 with more than $100,000 in catering donated to more than 50 events, mostly fundraising events for non-profit organizations. They’re on track to top that in 2015, the company’s 20th year in business, with Thomas predicting they’ll donate about $125,000 in catering toward 60 events.

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Raising the Bar: How LGBT dance clubs and bars respond to history and look to the future

By : Stephen Miller
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Our LGBT bars and nightclubs: throughout history, they’ve served as more than mere entertainment and socialization. They’ve alternately provided protection, community, purpose, a meeting place for political activism, a defining character for subgroups, and even a disseminator of vital cultural and health information. Yet, just like every lasting institution, in order to survive and be relevant, bars and clubs have to change. They can capitalize on what they do well while transforming with the times.

“Let’s face it,” says Steve Watkins, owner of the newly renovated Stonewall Bar Orlando, “social media isn’t going away. It’s a part of the whole experience of going out – heck, of all of life, anymore.”

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2015 World AIDS Day events round-up

By : Watermark Staff
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Here is a smattering of the events going on locally to honor World AIDS Day, many involving chances for you to know your HIV status, most involving fun with a splash of historical context and remembrance. Please check with the individual HIV agencies for more events.

See the list of events: 

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Hope and Help Center of Central Florida development director Russell Walker on the changing face of HIV/AIDS awareness

By : Billy Manes
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In February 2015, former Orlando GLBT Center vice president (and interim executive director) Russell Walker left one shifting Central Florida philanthropic agency for another. Walker assumed the helm at Hope and Help Center of Central Florida as events manager, but now finds himself in the position of community development director, one who is pushing for more outreach and greater transparency.

If this year’s Headdress Ball, Hope and Help’s signature fundraising event of plumage and responsibility, is anything to go by, Walker is succeeding. The Oct. 17 affair raised $325,000 for the HIV/AIDS support organization, all told, which might seem like a disappointment compared to the reported numbers from previous years, but is likely more a reflection of net profits versus gross profits. Along with the celebrity flourishes and black-tie beverage stains came a sense of responsibility, of community, that may have faded in the spotlights during the years prior. Walker is working to right the ship, he says, even after the $4 million agency lost a large sum of funding when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued its grants this summer.

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Hope and Help hires new events lead

By : Jamie Hyman
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MichaelMormanOrlando Hope and Help of Central Florida’s signature fundraising events, such as the AIDS Walk and Headdress Ball, raise more than a half a million dollars for the HIV/AIDS services organization each year. Now, there’s a new man in charge.

Michael Morman, Hope and Help’s new community events manager, steps into the role Nov. 23.

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