Last Thursday, a packed room united longtime donors, members of the media, volunteers, LGBT Life Center staff, skeptics, and supporters – all for one cause – the State of LGBT Life Center.
The inaugural Town Hall event, marked by insightful discussions and heartfelt stories, was a testament to The Center’s deep impact on the community. The evening began with welcoming remarks by Christopher Reybrouck, Senior Director of Strategy and Operations, at The Center, recognizing notable attendees and partners, including the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), City of Norfolk, and City of Virginia Beach, and setting a tone of gratitude and celebration.
Lisa Stafford, Board President, emphasized the board’s role in strategic planning and governance. She proudly announced the new Annual Report provided to attendees offering a comprehensive understanding of the Center’s accomplishments.
CEO Stacie Walls provided an update on The Center’s recent achievements and strategic goals, reinforcing the commitment to the community’s evolving needs: “We are here for the real work to make change, to make an impact, to work through difficult times,” she continued. Stacie highlighted the immense growth The Center has experienced in her 22 years of leadership, The LGBT Life Center now ranks as the 5th largest LGBTQ+ health and service center in the U.S.
Stacie closed her address with heartfelt gratitude to her team and the community,
“In my day-to-day work, I know it is my responsibility to inspire each person who walks through our doors – but over this past year, it’s the people sitting here today that inspire me.”
As The Center approaches 35 years of service, the event served as a recommitment and a reminder of the vast depth and breadth of services provided by the LGBT Life Center, from housing and healthcare to creating community.
“Housing is healthcare, ” Julie Snell proclaimed the familiar mantra of The Center, proving the validity through stories of individuals and the real-world effect of The Center’s housing initiatives and the transformative impact of these programs.
The event’s centerpiece was a panel discussion led by Michelle Reed, Director of Community Engagement. Panelists Gina Montanarelli, Matthew Patton, Omar White, Jarrell Hargraves, and Tierra Harrington offered first-hand knowledge of The Center’s daily operations through testimonies of real clients, anecdotes of experiences outside The Center, and the data to support The Center’s significant community impact. The discussion, enriched by attendees’ stories like those of Ruth Fordham, Robert Roman, and John Childers, illustrated The Center’s pivotal role in nurturing a supportive and empowered LGBTQ+ community.
Ken Nelms, Board Member, shared his journey, highlighting the importance of belonging and creating safe, supportive spaces for mental health. His story underscored the power of community partnerships in advancing The Center’s mission.
Closing remarks by Board Member Penny Sanzhez encapsulated the spirit of unity and hope, calling for continued support and involvement in The Center’s endeavors.
To learn more about all the ways you can get involved with LGBT Life Center, join our email list, sign up to volunteer, make a gift, and plan to join us for Dining Out For Life!
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