The Center Orlando announces opening of new Kissimmee location

By : Colton Adkins
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. | After releasing plans earlier this year to expand into Kissimmee, The Center Orlando has announced the location and opening date of its new LGBT+ Center.

The Center Kissimmee, located at 21 W. Monument Ave., will open Aug. 8 with an official grand opening and ribbon cutting scheduled for Aug. 15.

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The Center Orlando to bring LGBTQ children’s books to the community

By : Colton Adkins
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ORLANDO | The LGBT+ Center Orlando is expanding again, and this expansion is bringing in something for the kids.

George Wallace, The Center’s executive director, says the new expansion will include a children’s library complete with LGBTQ children’s books and youth novels. A children’s library will be added into the new Center coming to Kissimmee as well.

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PHOTOS: Kissimmee PrideFest 2018

By : mAIA
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The second annual PrideFest Kissimmee was held this past June 9 at the Kissimmee Civic Center to a large crowd enjoying the open display of LGBTQ pride. Miss Sammy and Lisa Lane hosted the entertainment as PrideFest audience members were encouraged to strut their stuff on stage to the delight of all, along with music by Orlando Gay Chorus and others. Vendors included Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT+ Center Orlando.

More photos after the jump.

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation awards The Center $25K grant for Kissimmee location

By : Layla Ferris
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ORLANDO | AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has awarded a $25,000 grant to the LGBT+ Center Orlando, Inc. (The Center) that will go toward opening The Center’s second location in Kissimmee.

AHF, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, is the nation’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care. It provides advanced medicine and advocacy to more than 900,000 people in 39 countries.

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The LGBT+ Center Orlando to open second location in Kissimmee

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The LGBT+ Center Orlando, Inc.’s board of directors announced April 6 that they will be expanding into Osceola County with an LGBT+ Center in Kissimmee.

The new expansion is a result of a donation from the Contigo Fund, an initiative of Our Fund Foundation that emerged from the Pulse massacre. Program Director Marco Antonio Quiroga said, in a press release, that the Contigo Fund recognizes the road to recovery for the survivors continues, and will continue for years to come.

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Kissimmee celebrates diversity with PrideFest

By : Danny Garcia
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The City of Kissimmee hosted their first ever Pridefest Kissimmee at the Kissimmee Civic Center June 10. The day was scheduled to include an opening ceremony, vendors and live entertainment both indoors and out.

Unfortunately, because of weather concerns, outdoor activities were cancelled and most of the festival was moved indoors. Despite the rain, many locals showed up to show their Pride. The event featured musical performers, art projects and a proclamation from the city of Kissimmee.

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Pulse shooter prayed at Kissimmee mosque 4 days before attack

By : Wire Report
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) – An imam has released video footage of Pulse shooter Omar Mateen praying in a Central Florida mosque four days before the attack that killed 49 people and injured 53 others.

Imam Helmi Elagha told reporters Sept. 28 that he was unaware that Mateen had visited the mosque until FBI investigators contacted him a couple of days after the June 12 shooting at Pulse.

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‘Glee’ actor Chris Colfer comes to Kissimmee for book tour

By : Anna M. Johnson
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Chris Colfer, actor and singer of Glee fame, will be holding an event for his newly released book The Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey in Kissimmee July 19.

This novel is the fifth in the children’s fiction series The Land of Stories.

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Suspect killed Kissimmee man because he “liked men” but not a hate crime, police say

By : Jeremy Williams
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Two suspects have been arrested for the shooting death of a 61-year-old homeless man outside an auto parts store in Osceola County.

Police charged Jason Simmons, 31, and Jonanthony Santiago, 23, with killing Guillermo Olivencia in the parking lot of Advance Auto Parts on North Main Street in Kissimmee on April 25.

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HIV+ basketball player kicked out of game recognizes chance to make a difference

By : Jamie Hyman
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Kissimmee – An openly gay St. Cloud man kicked out of a basketball league for being HIV-positive is turning his experience into a chance to educate about the realities of HIV and how it spreads.

Dakota Basinger, 21, has received national media attention and says he’s been contacted by people from all over the world who relate to his story.

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Out Kissimmee commissioner seeks re-election

By : Stephen Miller
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“I’ve tended to be a quieter commissioner,” says Cheryl Grieb, Kissimmee’s first gay elected official. “It’s tended to work well for me, because it’s like E.F. Hutton: When I do speak, people listen.”

Grieb, who has lived and worked in Osceola County for most of her life, was first elected in 2006. She is up for re-election in August.

Grieb_671490084.jpgHer post is significant to all LGBT people living in small Florida towns. Kissimmee has well over 50,000 people, but for most of its life, its population was barely over 5,000. In fact, it would’ve likely remained a small town if Walt Disney World hadn’t moved next door in 1971, about the same time a young Grieb and her family came to Central Florida from New Jersey.

“My mom was very strong. My father passed away two years earlier, and he left her with kids ranging from 10 months old to 12 years old,” Grieb said.

Grieb’s mom started doing real estate, later owning her own business. Grieb graduated from Osceola County High School, attended a semester at University of Florida, and then came back home to take a position at the front desk of her mom’s business. In 1991, Grieb bought the business. She sold it just over 12 years later.

Grieb never touts her sexual orientation, but she’s never hides it, either. Instead, she and her partner Patti Daugherty seek to improve the city’s downtown, battle rural sprawl, and help the local economy.

“I thought my being gay would come out during the election, and it did not become a big issue,” Grieb said.

There has only been a single incident, which occurred last summer. Fellow commissioner Art Otero made a motion to change the Kissimmee city logo to include the worlds “In God We Trust.” At first, Grieb was supportive, knowing they worked in an area that largely espoused spiritual and religious values.

However, at a July 28 commission meeting, Otero revealed more of his personal opinion on the matter: “This nation has been moving toward more liberal postures such as homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and the legalization of marijuana.”

“I never felt that it was an attack on me personally,” Grieb says. “I know a lot of people feel that way, and it was unfortunate.”

The logo change was dropped. The official reason was the $200,000 cost to Kissimmee, which has felt the recent economic pinch. Kissimmee is the seat of Osceola County, which has the largest foreclosure rate in Central Florida.

“The economy as a whole is on everyone’s minds at the moment,” she said. “We’ve worked to have self-discipline as city employees and as citizens. We have a great city manager; we’ve done well overall with our finances.”

Grieb said, though there have been a few people laid off, the city tries to move employees around instead of putting them on unemployment. Grieb also uses her real estate knowledge to intelligently manage local growth and said she wanted to work with the city to ensure growth while maintaining some of Kissimmee’s charm.

“We basically changed an ordinance for the project saying they had to be 300 feet away from Broadway,” she said. “You can’t have those tall buildings that are going to dwarf, cover and shadow the old building. So we got the best of both worlds for that.”

It was that project that first energized her work as Commissioner.

Even though her sexual orientation hasn’t been an issue, Grieb recently asked her fellow commissioners to explore a domestic partnership benefit package. The mayor and other commissioners, even Otero, gave the nod to move forward.

“It’s not going to be just for gay partners; it’s for unmarried heterosexual partners as well,” she said. “We have a lot of elderly folks who for one reason or another cohabitate, and this will help them.”

So far, her levelheaded approach has served her well.

“I am the type of person who has to absorb information for a while, mull it around, look at pros and cons, look at consequences, and then come out with what I think and why,” Grieb says. “I feel people here appreciate that.”