Spring Nonprofits Issue: Celebrations and Anniversaries

Photo by Hubert Bonnet
Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Photo by Hubert Bonnet

The Aliveness Project: Dine Out. Do Good.
by Kathleen Watson

The tastiest fundraising event of the year is almost here! Dining Out for Life, the fundraiser for foodies, will be on April 26 at a variety of locations in the Twin Cities, Alexandria, Mankato, St Cloud, Lanesboro, and Duluth. The proceeds from this year’s event will go to benefit the Aliveness Project, an organization devoted to encouraging self-empowerment and providing direct services for persons living with HIV/AIDS.

The Aliveness Project has outgrown its current building on 38th and Chicago–serving over 1600 people in a space suited for 400.  The organization purchased a new building on 38th and Nicollet which is accessible and spacious. Tim Marburger, the Director of Fundraising and Special Events, says the new building will “expand our opportunity to meet the needs of people physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

The 18th year of Dining Out for Life brings two exciting new opportunities taking place right here in the Twin Cities. Super Ambassadors will host the event at specific restaurants. These Super Ambassadors raised donations for prizes worth a minimum of $100 that will be given away at their restaurants during the event. Anyone who dines at the restaurant and donates an additional $50 will be entered to win amazing prizes such as Twins tickets,  an iPad 3, and wine and cheese baskets.

Rudolphs restaurant in Minneapolis is going above and beyond for the event with “Dine with the Stars: Dining Out for Life.” Anthony Whelihan, creator and host of the event, decided that he wanted to create a unique dining experience for customers at Rudolphs–a “last supper” with famous celebrities. The ten lucky individuals who were able to book tickets to sit at the main table will be given celebrity masks to wear during dinner. Celebrities “in attendance” will include Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and many more. All the money raised from this main table will be donated directly to the Aliveness Project. Contributions from other diners will also benefit the organization. Whelihan’s motto for the project is, “if you’re going to do this, do it the best!” Make sure to get reservations; with an event like this the whole restaurant WILL sell out!  For more information about the Aliveness Project, go to www.aliveness.org.


Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of MN AIDS Walks
by E.B. Boatner

Sunday, May 20, marks the 25th year of the Minnesota AIDS Walks in Minnehaha Park. In addition to the Walk, a 4-mile Run for the Ribbon will kick off the Minnesota AIDS Walk event at 9 AM in the Park.

The Minnesota AIDS Walk route covers about ten kilometers, or 6.2 miles. The Walk begins and ends in Minnehaha Park, following the Mississippi River and takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete. There are six rest stops along the route, each with refreshments, rest rooms, entertainment, and first aid kits. Donations to the AIDS Walk help the Minnesota AIDS Project prevent new HIV infections and keep people living with HIV healthy. Help make 2012 the year that AIDS does an about face and meet the faces behind the Minnesota AIDS Walk—people like the staff and volunteers pictured above. They are part of a team of organizers, idealists, dreamers, and die-hards who believe that together we can make a massive difference in the fight against AIDS in Minnesota.

There are several ways to be part of the AIDS Walk and the Run for the Ribbon: Walk or run yourself; donate through a Walker or a Team to support–they can be found online; or volunteer. It takes literally hundreds of volunteers to put on the AIDS Walk each year, with necessary tasks to be done the day before, during the event and after the event is over.

The schedule of events is as follows:

7:30 AM Run for the Ribbon Check-in

8:00 AM AIDS Walk Check-in

9:00 AM Run for the Ribbon

9:30 AM Health Fair and Park Activities

10:00 AM Opening Ceremony and Entertainment

11:00 AM Minnesota AIDS Walk

For 25 years, hundreds of walkers have helped raise money to support the Minnesota AIDS Project. For more information visit www.mnaidsproject.org.


OutFront MN Celebrates 25th Anniversary
by Kathleen Watson

OutFront MN, the nation’s first GLBT statewide group, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. What started out as a hotline for GLBT resources has now turned into one of the most influential GLBT lobbying groups in the nation. Known for their educational programming, political outreach, legal services, and support for GLBT assault/harassment victims, OutFront MN has been a force for social change and social justice for 25 years.

Monica Meyer, the current Executive Director of OutFront MN, has been with the organization since 1991. Meyer believes that “OutFront really exists to be a catalyst for an expansive network of people who are leading in their communities and working for LGBT equality. At the heart of our work we really hope someday to actually work our way out of a job and not have to do this because we really hope people can just be who they are, love who they love, and be really out about that and not fear discrimination, harassment, violence or isolation.”

OutFront MN started in 1987 when it was called the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council. The organization ran a 24-hour hotline where people could call in with questions about legal services, events, or crisis help. The group then decided that they needed to speak out against discrimination and tailored their services to focusing on promoting social change and justice. OutFront MN was vital in helping pass statewide non-discrimination laws in 1993, and it was the first statewide organization to include trans equality as part of its mission statement.

Now, Meyer notes that the organization does “a lot of education work—we have to be out there changing hearts and minds and getting more people to see LGBT people as people and understand the issues so they can come on the side of being more supportive.”

This year, OutFront MN is focusing on a specific policy issue that has become important on a national scale: safe schools. The organization is working with administrators, teachers, parents, and children to make schools bully-free and safe for everyone.

Most notably, OutFront MN is working diligently to defeat the constitutional amendment that aims to ban gay marriage. By uniting with other organizations against DOMA and lobbying incessantly, OutFront MN hopes to change minds and hearts regarding equal marriage. The recent Lobby Day at the capitol was particularly effective due to people sharing their personal stories.

Lobby Day reminded Meyers that these personal stories really do change the hearts and minds of legislators. “What’s been so effective is we have these groups of people who are really effective at talking and telling their stories, talking about how some of the issue they see in the local community. They talk about their vision about making a community that really does welcome all people and families. That’s the power that has made the changes for legislators.”

Meyers’s hope is that “legislators become more supportive of LGBT equality and become more aware of all of the different angles of LGBT issues.” She also believes that OutFront’s lobbying instigates “amazing conversations about ‘what could we do in our community to make it a safer place for everybody?’ and I think those conversations are inspiring and that it inspires leadership from our elected officials.”

OutFront MN will celebrate their 25th anniversary with a reception, ceremony, and party on May 18 at the Walker Art Center. As Meyers suggests, this celebration will be a “balance of honoring the people who contributed to making OutFront successful throughout the 25 years and honoring the current of activists throughout the state and against all odds.”

The organization hopes that the party will unite people across age, race, gender, and sexuality. Meyers’s goal is to celebrate in a way that fosters community, connecting young teens with older GLBT advocates and people from Greater Minnesota with local activists. “We really hope we created a kind of event where people will meet a bunch of new people, where it will be diverse in every sense of the word of diversity.”

The highlight of the anniversary event seems to be the “25 Under 25” awards that will be given out during the ceremony. These awards recognize young local activists who have worked hard to advocate for GLBT rights. Award winners will be recognized for their courage and their contributions to equal rights. Meyers notes that “there’s a lot of energy behind it; there’s a lot of excitement… It’s really fun. It’s just inspiring to hear the work that they’re doing.”

Meyers recognizes the contributions OutFront MN has made toward GLBT equality, but the organizations actions speak louder than words. “We’re doing significant work to make our state a better place for LGBT people and everyone else.”  For more information, see www.outfrontmn.org.


Photo courtesy of Animal Humane Society

Animal Humane Society’s Walk for Animals
by E.B. Boatner

The 38th Walk for Animals will take place on Saturday, May 5. Beginning at 10 AM at the Animal Humane Society’s Golden Valley campus two- and four-legged participants will wend their way through Theodore Wirth Park, then back to the Animal Humane Society.

The course covers approximately five miles, but, reassures Carrie Libera, the Society’s Public Relations Associate, “You can turn around at any point. The Walk for Animals is the greatest way to celebrate the human-animal bond in Minnesota!” She says that Animal Humane Society relies on private donations to provide the programs and services they offer and that the Walk is a very significant part of that funding.

Back at Animal Humane Society fun events will continue until 2 PM and include a “Flealess Market” of pet and people vendors, games for owners and dogs, live music, pet contests, and a pet microchip and nail trim clinic.

“The majority of pets that come to the Walk are dogs,” explains Libera, “but the Walk also attracts all types of companion animals including cats, parrots, ferrets, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, guinea pigs, rats–even goats! You never know what you might see!”

Despite drenching April showers last year, more than 5,000 people and 3,000 pets celebrated the 37th Walk. “To have so many thousands of people show up in less than desirable conditions was inspiring. In 2010, much nicer, weather, we had roughly 10,000 walkers and 5,000 animals. We know either way that thousands of animal lovers will come out and show their passion for the work that we do.”

Through its five locations in Buffalo, Coon Rapids, Golden Valley, St. Paul, and Woodbury, Animal Humane Society will help nearly 30,000 animals this year. There is still time to register and raise pledges for the Walk. For more information, visit: www.animalhumanesociety.org/walk.


Family Equality Council (FEC) Matures into Thirtysomething
by Kathleen Watson

The public’s definition of “family” has changed over the past 30 years, and the Family Equality Council has been around to see it all. The Family Equality Council is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in a year-long, nationwide celebration devoted to families of all different make ups. The national organization has a substantial Minnesota chapter with over 5,000 members, and the Minnesotans will have the chance to celebrate on April 27-28 at the Midwest Family Equality Conference: All Families Matter.

Originally titled Rainbow Families, the Minnesota branch merged with Family Equality Council in 2008 to bond families together on a national level. Mel Rexroad, the Midwest Regional Manager, has close bonds with the Family Equality Council because it provided support to her and her young twins when she moved from Kentucky to Minnesota. Like many others, Rexroad was able to begin raising her children in a supportive environment with the help of the FEC.

Rexroad states that the organization “started 30 years ago with a group of dads called Family Pride Coalition. They were Dads who needed support because they were coming out of heterosexual marriages with kids. This was a time where if you were gay and had kids, you could lose your kids. They came together to have support for one another and help each other be able to keep custody of their kids. It just grew from there and became FEC as it became larger throughout the nation.”

This expansion allowed the FEC to become the multi-faced organization that it is today. Rexroad says, “We represent the two million children being raised by 1 million LGBT same-sex families, and by that, we do everything.”

The FEC works to change public policies, especially with regard to forms for school and medical appointments. “Your kids go to kindergarten…and you have to scratch out where it says mom and dad. We work with local school districts and at the federal level to change it to say parent one and parent two.” This effort truly has paid off; about a month ago, the group was able to get the change made on passport documents and overseas adoption certificates.

Another big aspect of the Family Equality Council is community, and the Minnesota chapter is heavily inspired by the community-based mission of Rainbow Families. Along with a yearly conference, the organization provides monthly baby/toddler groups, dances, parties, and other gatherings to celebrate GLBT families.

The FEC uses lots of communication tools to get the word out about GLBT families. Rexroad says the organization wants to “let people know that our families are more mainstream now than 30 years when FEC started.  Even though we’re mainstream, we’re still special—we have our own issues. We’re LGBT families so in some situations we aren’t looked on in the same rights and we don’t have the same rights as all families. So we want to have our inclusiveness with us but we also want to be included with everyone else.”

Because the FEC is a national organization, there will be numerous anniversary celebrations around the country. The Midwest conference will be followed by a huge carnival that is open to the public. The Minnesota branch of FEC will also be hosting a family area at PRIDE with Target. This fills a need that families experience at PRIDE celebrations—an area that is safe and appropriate for the whole family to enjoy.

The FEC has extreme significance for Mel Rexroad because it has allowed her to become an activist. She says, “when I had kids, I didn’t think anything about being a quote-unquote activist. And so when FEC merged with RF in 2008, I went to the conference and I listened to the executive director speak. She said something that really stuck with me: she said that the day you chose to have kids, you chose to be an activist for LGBT families and I never really thought about it that way. But then, as a parent and a lesbian…it really stuck with me…that I made a decision to have kids and I’m going to become an activist.”

Rexroad’s work with the Family Equality Council has been both scary and exciting. On one hand, it has opened her eyes about the bullying and prejudice that GLBT families still face. On the other hand, her work has allowed her to represent her family and thousands of other GLBT families. She states, “what I do is show pride in who I am and our community, and I feel like that’s just a blessing to do what I really love.”

As Rexroad simply states it, the FEC is “part of making change for our families, for my family.”

For more information, please see www.familyequality.org.


Bingo Gets Hitched: Wedding A-Go-Go!
by E.B. Boatner

It’s Spring and one’s fancy naturally turns to–Miss Richfield 1981, swathed in white tulle and chiffon! You can indulge your fancies Saturday, May 5, at Bingo A-Go-Go’s “Wedding Bell Bingo” at the Hyatt Minneapolis, a glorious event raising funds for Park House and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus.

Should you fancy yourself in tulle and chiffon (or tuxedo and tie) all the better–costumes are encouraged, with a contest for the best wedding-themed outfits. Aferwards, you and your sweetie can be photographed ‘neath a nearby trellis. Bingo Babe Shannon (Regan), Park House Representative, says while she still misses Lee Haugee, the other Bingo Babe, she is “very content with her boys in the Chorus. Nearly everyone in the chorus has volunteered to help out, whether it’s helping to stage the event, the actual night of the event, and then staying to help clean up. Of course they will also be singing.”

Miss Richfield adds, in her own inimitable way, “I’ll play host for the evening and Barbie Q (always a bridesmaid, never a bride) will be handling balls all night long. Plus Gosh Alice Jones will show off her selection of bridesmaids dresses…the wedding planners have reserved some ‘head tables’ (probably not what I’m thinking but I’m going with it) for those of you who want to sit close to me and see me perspire.”

To date, Bingo A-Go-Go has raised over $500,000 by producing twenty-seven fun-filled nights of bingo in just nine years. These funds have enabled the beneficiaries to continue to provide top-rate day health services to residents and clients and provide educational outreach throughout the community.

Groups of eight or more receive reserved seating when booking online and specifying a table host. How much? $35 advance, $40 door; V.I.P. Head table tickets $150. Visit: www.bingoagogo.com


Rescue Us! at The Town House
by Kathleen Watson

The Town House Bar is hosting the Buster’s “Rescue Us!” Fundraiser in order to help raise money for two animal rescue organizations, Last Hope Inc and Top Dog Foundation. With opportunities to sponsor an animal for just $5 and to “put your friends in jail,” this event will be an exciting way to support those who look after all our furry friends. Join your friends at The Town House on May 4 at 9:00 pm to party like (and for) animals.

Last Hope Inc is “dedicated to saving abandoned, unwanted and helpless dogs and cats” in Minnesota and surrounding organizations. As a registered non-profit organization since 1985, Last Hope Inc has helped save countless pets from abuse, neglect, and death.  Last Hope Inc provides animals with medical care, including spaying and neutering to help control population.  Animals are fostered by volunteers until they are placed with adoptive families.  Last Hope also does not believe in euthanizing animals unless they are suffering from an incurable illness or injury. Last Hope does exactly what their name says–they provide hope and safety for animals in need.

Top Dog Foundation has three specific programs that reach out to both animals and people. The Sanctuary provides “a planned loving and permanent home for dogs that are deemed unadoptable to provide total care for these dogs including lodging, food, grooming, medical attention, with personal care and love.” Bentley Grants provide financial assistance to people, doctors, and organizations who have aging dogs with severe medical conditions. Finally, the A Home for Every Aging Heart program places senior dogs with senior citizens in order to develop a sense of companionship which benefits both the dog and the person.

The Town House will be serving $1 drinks and beer, and attendees will have the opportunity to win a variety of prizes. For more information, go to www.townhousebar.com.

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