Jonathan Green, a former Time Out Youth client, sings the song, "Jonathan's Song," composed by One Voice Chorus Director Gerald Gurss and inspired by Green's story of youth homelessness.
Jonathan Green, a former Time Out Youth client, sings the song, "Jonathan's Song," composed by One Voice Chorus Director Gerald Gurss and inspired by Green's story of youth homelessness.
Jonathan Green, a former Time Out Youth client, sings the song, “Jonathan’s Song,” composed by One Voice Chorus Director Gerald Gurss and inspired by Green’s story.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Celebrating its seventh The Happening luncheon with a dramatic increase in attendance, the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund paid homage to local organizations and corporations working for a fairer and more inclusive city on Wednesday.

The fund, a giving circle comprised of donors and stakeholders, pools money and resources in order to have maximum effect. The fund, begun in 2003, has been able to grant more than $700,000 to local LGBT or LGBT-inclusive organizations in the last seven years.

On Wednesday, the group celebrated more than $100,000 in grants this year, recipient organizations marking a wide diversity of groups from those serving youth to LGBT sports teams and musical groups.

Time Out Youth, the city’s LGBT youth services agency, received the largest grant this year, with $20,000 going to an operating grant, $5,000 to assist with the Carolina Conference on Queer Youth and $2,500 to support hiring a peer youth outreach worker.

grant awards

Operating Grants
Campus Pride – $6,000
Charlotte Pride Band – $3,500
Charlotte Pride – $2,500
Charlotte Royals – $5,100
Gay Men’s Chorus – $5,500
One Voice Chorus – $7,700
One World Dragon Boat – $2,500
PFLAG Charlotte – $2,250
Freedom Center – $7,500
Time Out Youth – $20,000

Programs & Projects
Campus Pride – $3,000
Charlotte Pride Band – $3,000
Charlotte Pride – $3,000
Community Building Initiative – $4,000
Gay Men’s Chorus – $4,000
Levine Museum – $4,500
One Voice Chorus – $3,850
Freedom Center – $4,650
Time Out Youth – $7,500

Other awards included $4,500 to the Levine Museum of the New South and their continued efforts to highlight and document local LGBT history. The museum opens the first-ever local LGBT history exhibit in Charlotte next month.

One grant recipient was absent this year, however. Historically, the fund had supported the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte with more than $100,000 in grants since 2007, but the group did not receive a grant award at the luncheon this year. Over the past several months, the center has faced a variety of concerns and struggles over finances, transparency and mismanagement.

The fund said Wednesday its three guiding principles for grant award review this year included “transparency, inclusion and commitment.”

Luncheon grows

The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund’s annual fundraising luncheon has grown in recent years. Last year, the event attracted 450 people at the Omni Charlotte, but had to move to The Westin this year, with it’s 600-plus crowd. Leaders credited some of that growth with the increasing support of corporate partners in Charlotte, including presenting sponsors Wells Fargo and PNC Bank.

“It’s really great to see our own community in Charlotte step up and realize that the gay community matters and that we’re worth marketing to,” Fund Board Chair Jenni Gaisbauer told the audience Wednesday.

Weston Andress, PNC Bank’s regional president for Western North Carolina, and Robert Dogens, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo, both spoke briefly, thanking the audience for their support and reiterating their companies’ commitment to equality and community.

“Charlotte won’t be successful until all of her citizens are equal, regardless of who they love,” Dogens said, adding that Wells Fargo’s support of equality is an “honor, privilege and responsibility.”

Marking that success, the fund said, will take financial support and commitment.

Gina Esquivel, the fund’s 2013-2014 Grants Committee chair, told the audience that fundraising and philanthropy is more art than science.

“An art can only be claimed by an artist,” Esquivel said, drawing on metaphor to make her case. “An artist has the unique ability to see a miracle in a white canvas. An artist makes a commitment to people they don’t know in order to change lives.”

Sheri Lynch, co-host of the “Bob & Sheri Show” on 107.9 The Link, emceed the Wednesday luncheon, which attracted a variety of elected officials and other civic leaders, including Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, City Councilmember Vi Lyles, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, the Hon. Sam Ervin IV, the Hon. Shirley Fulton, the Hon. Christy Mann, former County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts and Tom Adams, a congressional candidate for South Carolina’s Fifth District.

Other civic leaders in attendance included Charlotte Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins, Johnson & Wales Charlotte Campus President Arthur J. Gallagher and his wife, Johnson C. Smith University President Dr. Ronald L. Carter and University of North Carolina-Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and his wife.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper was also in attendance, just one day after his office entered its official response to a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on First Amendment religious grounds.

Coincidentally, one of the lawsuits lead plaintiffs, Holy Covenant United Church of Christ Pastor Nancy Allison, gave the luncheon’s invocation, taking time before doing so to speak briefly about the lawsuit and recognizing other plaintiffs and the suit’s attorneys present at the event.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.