by Joshua Michael Rumley -
SGN Contributing Writer
The Gay City Health Project held its eighth annual Eden Garden Party fundraiser on August 11 at the private residence of Seattle-based photographer Art Wolfe. The event raised more than $30,000 for Gay City - well over the initial fundraising goal.
'Our initial budget was $15,000. After collecting nearly $11,000 in advance of the event, we set a new goal to try and raise $25,000,' said Gay City Health Project Executive Director Fred Swanson. 'When all was said and done, we had brought in more than $30,000, far exceeding all expectations.'
This is great news for the community organization that has been developing plans to expand their current location at 511 East Pike Street on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Gay City Health Project has been hosting the Eden Garden Party for the last eight years. This year's party, situated above Elliott Bay, included food and drinks, raffle tickets sold by scantily clad gentlemen, a silent auction, and moving testimonies by Gay City staff and board members.
Over 100 people attended the Eden Garden Party, including King County Councilman Joe McDermott. McDermott, who is Gay, gave a brief talk about how the Gay City Health Project helped him find friends when he was younger, and helped him connect with a healthy and supportive community.
'It was amazing. I'm so proud of the work we're doing, and it was powerful to have that kind of response from the community,' said Swanson.
The Eden Garden Party was sponsored by a variety of local businesses and community members including Art Wolfe Photography, Alaska Airlines, Foodz Catering, Gay City Travel Club, Juniper Flowers, Jet Blue, Pearl Vodka, Winebow, Clipper Vacations, and Saab of Bellevue.
This marks the 16th year for the Gay City Health Project, whose mission is to promote the health of Gay and Bisexual men, including those who are Transgender, and prevent HIV transmission by building community, fostering communication, and nurturing self-esteem. Gay City Health Project is the leading provider of STI and HIV testing in King County.
Gay City Health Project has been in its current location for the last five years. During that time, the organization has expanded its services beyond HIV and STI testing and now offers programs dealing with addiction and recovery, LGBT resources and referrals, artistic programming, physical activity programming, a LGBT library, and a variety of educational forums and speeches. Gay City even offers a program called Out to Quit, which is a support group for those trying to quit using tobacco products.
'Simply put, we have outgrown our space,' said Swanson. 'In the five years we have been in our current location, we have significantly increased the number of people we serve and need to add capacity.'
Gay City plans to expand the Gay City LGBT library and give it the proper space for the amount of books and resources that have been donated from the community. In addition, Gay City plans to build an LGBT resource center to house the Gay City LGBT Resource and Referral program and to increase the amount of meeting and program space so they can better accommodate community activities and performances.
'We'd like to do a better job of providing the services we already house, particularly those we inherited from the Seattle LGBT Community Center,' said Swanson. 'We anticipate that the additional space will also allow for additional programming at night, and that more people will come to see Gay City as a place to gather and celebrate community.'
As the country is currently recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the idea of expanding and building new facilities is only a dream for some organizations, yet Gay City has experienced an outpouring of support from the community that has allowed for the current expansion plans to proceed.
'We have already allocated and raised roughly $75,000 to get us started, and have our sights on raising another $100,000 or $150,000,' said Swanson. 'We are also looking at trying to access some city and state money, but realize that government funds are quite tight at the moment.'
Kaladi Brothers Coffee, which currently shares the same building with Gay City Health Project, will be expanding its facilities, as well.
'Kaladi Brothers, our coffee partner, will be expanding with us, and we are in talks with two other LGBT organizations about moving into the space with us,' said Swanson.
Swanson said that over the next few weeks Gay City will start to acquire the proper permits for the construction of the new facilities and that if everything goes according to plan the new space should be open by next year's Seattle Pride in June.
Further information for the Gay City Health Project can be found at www.gaycity.org, including volunteer opportunities and upcoming events. If you would like to donate to the organization, visit www.gaycity.org/index.php?page=donate.
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