Second Chances: The LGBTQ community, addiction and the road to recovery

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Editor’s Note: At their request, the last names of three recovering addicts featured in this story have been abbreviated for their anonymity and to protect the programs utilized to maintain their sobriety.

It wasn’t drinking his own urine that forced Michael J. to make a change in his life. He’d already decided he should. That just got him high again from the crystal meth coursing through his system, his only access to the drug while strapped to a hospital bed in Central Florida.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Mark & Ricky Celaya-Renaud

By : Aaron Drake
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“I proposed to Mark – we are both Eagle Scouts and have a shared affinity for the outdoors and nature, so I planned out a camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park,” Ricky Celaya-Renaud shares. “We did a flashlight tour of the main caverns, and at the last possible chance before leaving the cave, I gathered my courage, got down on one knee and asked him to marry me.”

“Ricky decided to sign us up for a cave tour in the woods – I’m terrified of bats, by the way – where he decided to ask me to marry him at the very end,” Mark Celaya-Renaud adds. “At that point, I would’ve done anything to get out of that cave! Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t already want to, so not only did I get to get out of the home of winged-monsters, but I came out of it engaged to the love of my life.”Ricky, a property manager and native of St. Petersburg, currently lives with his husband Mark, a senior analyst and transplant from Granada Hills, Calif., in Tampa.

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OYA in the running to be Lucky’s Market Orlando 1st quarter fundraising recipient

By : Amanda Espinosa
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ORLANDO | Lucky’s Market is a supermarket chain not only with a focus on organic foods but also a focus on giving back to its local community. Bags of Change, a fundraiser organized by the supermarket chain, helps three local nonprofits to raise some much needed funds each quarter.

Each one of Lucky’s Market locations nominate five nonprofits and its customers vote on which three will be the fundraising recipients, and Lucky’s Market Orlando selected the Orlando Youth Alliance as one of the five nominees for its first quarter. Now it is up to you to make OYA one of the top three.

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Tymisha Harris: Central Florida Entertainer & co-creator and star of “Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play”

By : Blue Star
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Blue Star

Remarkable almost doesn’t do this woman justice.

Tymisha Harris is a talent beyond compare. She is a great human being and my best friend. So many people do not know the struggles that she has faced and the hurdles she has been made to jump through to be where she is today. It has been a steady, courageous climb that is finally getting her the recognition she deserves.

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Jerick Mediavilla: Educator and Central Florida LGBTQ Activist

By : Ida Vishkaee Eskamani
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Ida Vishkaee Eskamani

It’s fall 2017 and we are somewhere in Tallahassee. Legislative committee weeks had commenced and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ Latinx lawmaker, was telling me about a new man in his life.

He was both giddy and bewildered by how well they were vibing. This guy was handsome (I immediately verified this with some light social media lurking), kind, funny, attentive, smart, successful and, most importantly, emotionally available and into Carlos. His name is Jerick Mediavilla and my friends—This man is remarkable!

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George Wallace: Current LGBT+ Center of Central Florida Executive Director

By : Michael Wanzie
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Michael Wanzie

I may not be aware of all that George Wallace has done to make him a hero of 2018 specifically, but I do know that George has been my personal hero for many years.

Firstly, as a healthcare advocate for special needs individuals. Secondly, as a person who has helped countless individuals in need—on a personal level, well beyond the scope of any employment mandate, and he has done so often and without fanfare or public recognition. Thirdly, as one of the true visionaries and hardest working people who dedicated every fiber of his being to help make The Orlando Fringe Festival the resounding success it is today.

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12.13.2018 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s here! That magical time of the year, kiddos—where the holidays are upon us and most people have a little more pep in their step and cheer in their voice.

It’s also that time of year when everyone is doing up lists. Santa has a list of nice and naughty children. Entertainment critics have lists of the year’s best films, shows and songs. Everyone has their list of all the personal changes they hope to make stick in 2019, me included. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Angie Folks and Lindsay Khanna

By : Aaron Drake
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Angie Folks knew she would marry her wife, Lindsay Khanna, after a trip the couple took to St. Augustine.

“We took a long weekend trip to St. Augustine, inadvertently around Valentine’s Day,” Folks tells. “We had some bad luck with our accommodations but rolled with it and still had the best time. I think we both knew then that we had something really special. About 18 months later, we got engaged.”

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The Milk District announces new openly gay executive director

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Milk District in Orlando announced that Zac Alfson, the former patron engagement manager for the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, will become the district’s new executive director. The announcement came by a press release Nov. 13.

“Zac has extensive experience in nonprofit management and community building and will lead The Milk District’s efforts to enhance and preserve the small business community, while nurturing the arts, culture and ongoing development of our creative district,” the press release states.

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The SMART Ride raises largest one-year total in 15 years for HIV/AIDS research

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The SMART Ride, the only HIV/AIDS bicycle ride in the country of its size to donate 100 percent of funds raised to HIV/AIDS research, revealed Nov. 17 that it had raised a record $1,171,849 in its 15th year – the largest one-year total in the not for profit’s history.

Hundreds of riders from Jacksonville, Key West, Orlando, Palm Beach, Tampa Bay and across the nation completed the two-day, 165-mile bike ride from Miami to Key West Nov. 16-17. Each rider was tasked with raising at least $1,250.

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Two inspiring individuals prove leaving the corporate world can really pay off

By : Holly Kapherr Alejos
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When I called Victor Bokas for an interview, he was in the middle of working on a five-foot-square commissioned painting for an art collector in Spain. “I could have never done this had I stayed in the corporate world,” he said to me with an incredulous half-laugh. Since being let go from his position as a senior graphic designer at Tupperware Brands in 2015, he has devoted his full energy to his craft, and it’s made all the difference.

Mandy Keyes, owner of Community Cafe in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg, also left her corporate position as an interior designer to open a storefront on Central Avenue, the area’s main thoroughfare. When I walked into the cafe for our interview, she was in the thick of taking orders, clearing tables, fielding questions – all the things you’d expect from a small-business owner – popping up at intervals during our conversation to tend to her customers. At 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, the place was packed. It’s working.

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The 2018 Amendment Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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This year’s ballot lists 12 potential amendments to the Florida Constitution. Only two of those were proposed by Florida’s citizens, including Amendment 4. It is the only amendment Equality Florida has taken a stance on, advising that the eligibility to vote is fundamental to democracy and that voting yes “is the first step in helping LGBTQ people with former convictions.”

For more information about 2018’s proposed amendments, read on below.

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