Originally published: May 25, 2011, 2:42 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2011, 12:15 p.m.

Mitchell Gold speaks to the nearly 400 attendees at the 2001 The Happening.

CHARLOTTE — At their annual fundraising luncheon at Uptown’s Omni Hotel on May 25, the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund announced recipients for 2011 grants totaling a record $85,000. Another $25,000 in additional monies from Wells Fargo were contributed to eight organizations’ operating grants.

The event, dubbed “The Happening,” serves as the fund’s annual gift-giving ceremony and a fundraising lunch. In addition to the operating funds contributed by Wells Fargo, the company also pledged a $25,000 matching challenge for all money raised for the fund.

The event was emceed by Maureen O’Boyle, anchor for news station WBTV.

“While I am not technically a part of your community, I feel like I’m a part of it today and am grateful to be here,” O’Boyle said in her opening statements. Later, thanking companies and organizations that had sponsored the event, O’Boyle encouraged attendees to support LGBT-friendly businesses.

“I do shop at organizations that I know are supporting the groups I cherish,” she said.

North Carolina furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold, a well-known philanthropist and advocate for LGBT social, civil and religious equality, keynoted the luncheon. In his message, Gold challenged attendees to speak out and take stands for equality in Charlotte, in North Carolina and in the nation as whole.

In 2008, Gold edited “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America,” a book exploring discrimination at the hands of religion. [Ed. Note — This writer contributed a chapter to the book.]

Gold, who was married to his partner in Iowa, said he is amazed at the progress the community has made, but said religion-based bigotry continues to take its toll on young people.

Grants dispersed

The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund dispersed a record $85,000 in grants to several LGBT community organizations and others doing work on LGBT issues. An additional $25,000 was granted to each of the eight organizations receiving operating grants from the fund. A list of grant recipients is reprinted below:

Operating Grants
Campus Pride: $4,500; Charlotte Black Gay Pride: $2,000; Charlotte Pride Band, $2,150; Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, $5,500; Lionel Lee Jr. Center for Wellness, $3,350; One Voice Chorus, $5,000; The Lesbian and Gay Community Center, $7,500; Time Out Youth, $19,000.

Community Connections Grants
Actors Theatre of Charlotte, $5,000; Charlotte Chamber Music and Gay Men’s Chorus, $2,900; One Voice Chorus, $2,500; Temple Beth-El, $1,800; The Lesbian and Gay Community Center, $5,000; Time Out Youth, $2,300; UNC Charlotte Department of Counseling, $1,500.

ADAM Queer Youth Grants
Campus Pride, $2,585; Community Culinary School of Charlotte, $3,790; Lesbian and Gay Community Center, $1,780; The Ujamaa Institute, $2,845; Time Out Youth and Gay Men’s Chorus, $4,000.

Wells Fargo contributions
Campus Pride: $2,850; Charlotte Black Gay Pride: $1,300; Charlotte Pride Band, $1,300; Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, $3,450; Lionel Lee Jr. Center for Wellness, $2,300; One Voice Chorus, $3,200; The Lesbian and Gay Community Center, $4,800; Time Out Youth, $3,500.

He cautioned, “It ain’t good enough for me. Anybody who’s really satisfied with the state of LGBT rights and emotional wellness in this city, in this state and in this country, if you’re satisfied with it, sit back and listen no more. But if you are not satisfied, if you in your hearts see the gay rights movement a little differently, as I do…then we cannot allow the face of the gay rights movement to be adults. It has to be the children, the vulnerable kids.”

Gold also said North Carolina’s and Charlotte’s LGBT community must stand up against efforts to write discrimination into the state constitution. The legislature is currently considering an amendment that would ban recognition of both marriage and other types of public and private relationships for same-sex couples.

“What do you think the conversation is going to be like around a 14-year-old’s table with their parents, listening to their parents say, ‘We have to have a constitutional amendment. We can’t have gays getting married. Gays will ruin the moral fiber of society?’ and all of that kind of stuff that people say when they are at a dining room table on a Sunday,” he said. “This constitutional amendment will be a ferocious battle for months. What will that kid be thinking?”

Gold noted that 31 states had attempted and failed to keep marriage amendments out of their constitutions. He said different tactics are needed if the LGBT community plans to win on this issue.

“We have to make sure the leadership in our state and in this city does something,” he said. “Speaker [Thom] Tillis is in your city. Speaker Tillis has the power to keep this amendment from passing. He has the the ability to be a key part in squashing this.”

Gold encouraged attendees to reach out and educate Tillis.

“We have to educate Speaker Tillis and get him to understand that this legislation was brought about by senators and representatives in the House from their religious beliefs,” Gold said. “There is nothing civil about it. They brought this legislation because of their own personal religion — outdated, ill-informed and horrifically painful to a lot of people young and old.”

He added, “We have to educate Speaker Tillis and if that means going to his church on Sunday and sitting in those pews and standing up with a sign that says ‘End the Harm,’ I dare Charlotte to do that and if you do I will be there with you.” : :

Gifts that make a difference

Recipients of Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund and Wells Fargo Foundation philanthropy say the gifts their organizations received on May 25 will go a long way in improving services or expanding outreach.

“Most people in the community are aware that we have not been able to be a full-time center since 2007,” said John Stotler, chair of the LGBT Community Center of charlotte. “Our goal in 2011 was to became a full-time center again and this [gift] will help us a long way toward that.”

LaWana Mayfield, a fund board member and leader with the Ujamaa Institute said fund gifts will support her group’s youth training initiatives. “It is a special program that is targeted toward youth doing philanthropy and teaching them that it is more than giving money — it is giving your time, talent and treasure,” she said.

Steve Bentley, executive director of Time Out Youth, said he hopes the increased funds from Wells Fargo and the fund will enable his group to increase staff hours and support their school outreach program.

Similarly, Campus Pride’s Shane Windmeyer said his group’s increased funding will be used to provide immediate needs for youth seeking to attend their 2011 summer leadership camp.

“We are working with two students right now,” Windmeyer said. “one student who very recently lost her apartment in a tornado and another student who couldn’t afford to attend the camp because of his own personal, family situation. These funds will allow us to get some scholarship resources out there for these youth.”

Matt Comer

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