Philanthropy Friday: William Way LGBT Community Center


william way community center

Welcome to Philanthropy Fridays, where Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) Executive Director Samantha Giusti introduces you to a local LGBT non-profit in Philadelphia. This week, Michael Pomante explains the work he does at William Way LGBT Community Center, and (are you sitting?) hints at an winter-themed IndiGoGo party.  

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Michael Pomante at William Way’s Indigo Ball.

I am … Michael Pomante, development director, on behalf of the William Way LGBT Community Center.

William Way was founded in …  1974 as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Philadelphia

One-sentence mission statement: The William Way LGBT Community Center encourages, supports, and advocates for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the Greater Philadelphia region through service, recreational, educational, and cultural programming.

The organization’s shining moment, to date? The Center’s production of OutBeat: America’s First Queer Jazz Festival, which played host to dozens of critically acclaimed jazz artists, like Terri Lyne Carrington, Andy Bey, Grammy Award-winning pianist Fred Hersch, the Patricia Barber Quartet, and drummer Bill Stewart. OutBeat was the first LGBT jazz festival ever produced in the United States. … The festival served as the finale for William Ways’s annual music series and highlighted the intersection between sexual orientation and gender identity within jazz history, community, and culture. It put the Center in the national spotlight.

Local jazz phenomenon, Dena Underwood, delights a sell-out crowd at the OutBeat Opening Reception.

Jazz artist Dena Underwood performs at the OutBeat opening reception.

If a check for $1 million found its way to my doorstep … I’d be ecstatic! And then, I’d put it all into improving, enhancing, and expanding our physical space. The Center is a beautiful pre-Civil War era building—originally two brownstones joined together by The Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, which occupied 1315 Spruce Street for decades. With an old building comes beautiful architecture, hand-crafted woodwork, and terrazzo tile floors, but all of that is a lot to maintain. Anyone who has been in the Center during a rainstorm or heavy snow knows that the building suffers from multiple leaks. Our laundry list of needs includes a new HVAC system, a new roof, and brick pointing, all of which will make the Center a more welcoming space for our clients, guests, and patrons—which is our top priority. Plus, we’re quite literally running out of space! With $1 million (I’m sure we’d need much more), I’d add a 5th and maybe even a 6th floor, making room for more tenant spaces, a new ballroom with a catering kitchen, a multi-purpose room for classes, more meeting spaces, and a high-tech learning center that would house our computer lab, archives, and library.

Special events coming up? Indigo Ball 2014 is a meaningful and magical evening, during which over 350 guests will celebrate the good work of the Center and the vibrant and diverse community it serves. Indigo Ball will take place on Saturday, October 25, from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. We will honor Mark Aronchick as Ally of the Year, The Attic Youth Center as Community Partner of the Year, Comcast as Corporate Partner of the Year, John Dougherty with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Reggie Shuford as Humanitarian of the Year. Visit waygay.org for more info about the event or to purchase tickets.

And, as many people know, the Center partnered with dozens of LGBTQ party promoters, DJs, and performers to produce IndiGoGo this past July at Underground Arts. We were worried about attendance, because the city tends to clear out during the summer months, but this tremendous “queer funhouse and dance extravaganza” brought in more than 750 attendees, with all proceeds benefiting the life-saving and life-affirming programs and services the Center offers. IndiGoGo was such a success that people started calling the Center asking us to host it monthly. Wow! I wish we could, but we just don’t have the capacity to do so … however, there have been some whispers between us and our party partners about a winter edition. Keep your eyes peeled and ears to the ground. A frosty funhouse might not be too far away!

Indigo Ball 2013 co-chairs and Board members Rudy Flesher and Amber Hikes.

Co-chairs and Board members Rudy Flesher and Amber Hikes looking like a million bucks at last year’s Indigo Ball.

Are there ways I can contribute without giving money? No doubt! The Center depends on hundreds of volunteers each year to staff events, help with outreach, serve on our Board and committees, work in our library, and welcome visitors at the front desk. We love our volunteers and couldn’t do the work we do without them. Please call 215-732-2220 to sign up to attend a volunteer orientation.

Do you have extra office supplies? Office furniture? Gift cards? Consider making an in-kind donation to the Center. Offsetting the costs of things we need is a great way to help us out … and still get a tax write off!

Finally, get to know us better so that you can serve as a William Way ambassador. Stop by the Center, speak to our friendly front desk staff, check out our art gallery and archive exhibition space, and tell your friends to do the same. Posters and flyers are great, but word of mouth is the best way to communicate our mission and teach others about the services we provide.   

How can I donate money? It couldn’t be easier! Visit waygay.org and click on the donate button to become a member or make a donation. Consider making a recurring donation—for as little as $10 a month, you can be one of our sustainers. You can also stop by (1315 Spruce Street) or call (215-732-2220) to donate by check or credit card. And you can always send a check to the address listed above. To donate stock or for more information about our Cornerstone program (gifts of $1,000+), give us a call and ask to speak to me, Development Director Michael Pomante.

Want to have your non-profit featured in an upcoming Philanthropy Friday? Email Samantha at [email protected]