Photo by Jose Cassola
Meeting held in conjunction with organization’s three-year anniversary party
By Jose Cassola
OUT Miami Foundation recently celebrated its third anniversary by holding an LGBTQ town hall to announce new initiatives, address concerns and take suggestions from attendees on how to better serve the community.
At the town hall, which took place Feb. 22 at the Hotel Gaythering in Miami Beach, attendees spoke directly with the foundation’s top leaders to help shape future programs, initiatives and grants that will “improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Miami,” said executive director Jaime Bayo. He says he is planning to hold more town halls in the future.
“[These town halls are an] opportunity to share with us some of the ideas you may have for the LGBT community, challenges, concerns,” Bayo said. “It’s an opportunity for anyone in the LGBT community and our allies to come to find out more about what the foundation is doing but also share with us what you feel we should be prioritizing at the foundation.”
Bayo unveiled three new funds OUT Miami will be launching in April. One is geared towards youth and families, which will provide help to high school gay-straight alliances (GSAs) through direct financial assistance, mentorship and leadership opportunities. The fund also focuses on supporting programs benefiting LGBTQ youth, educational initiatives and activities for LGBTQ families.
OUT Miami board chair Cristina Small says the Youth and Families fund “supports the next generation of LGBTQ leaders.” The initiative is one that “touches close to home” for Small, who is a lesbian and a mother to an 18-year-old lesbian daughter.
“With her growing up, she had it very easy. She had a lesbian mom. It was never an issue her whole coming out process,” said Small, a member of the Aqua Foundation for Women and a volunteer with the Hopes & Dreamers Foundation. “It was just natural. She had two moms, that’s how it was. However, some of her friends did not have the same luxury.”
Photo by Jose Cassola
When Small came to Miami about a year-and-a-half ago and joined OUT Miami, she says she “saw what a great organization it was but it was lacking a few facets, if you will, and that being youth and families.”
“So we decided to create this youth and families fund,” Small said. “We are going into high schools in Miami-Dade and creating a GSA fund for gay-straight alliances and being mentors and advocates for students.”
Two other funds announced at the town hall are: the Health and Wellness fund, which will support programs that reduce LGBTQ health disparities and promote wellness within the LGBTQ community; and the Social Justice and Equality fund, which will focus on supporting programs that benefit the LGBTQ community’s most underserved populations, including people of color, transgenders, seniors, immigrants and LGBTQ people living in poverty.
Bayo said the funds were created to offer assistance to more causes and initiatives.
“Rather than what we had in the past, where we had one fund that the donors got to vote on, now we’re splitting it up into three issue-based funds,” Bayo said. “This is so that an organization that is supporting homeless youth isn’t in direct competition with an organization that is providing HIV testing, for example, because those are things that are so different. It’s very difficult to make a decision about which one should receive funding versus another.”
Photo by Jose Cassola
Following the town hall, OUT Miami held an anniversary party, celebrating three years of the organization. The nonprofit’s mission is to build an engaged, philanthropic LGBTQ community in the Greater Miami area by working collaboratively with local, state, and national LGBTQ-serving organizations to identify and solve local community problems.
OUT Miami’s aim is to operate programs and mobilize resources that increase engagement, volunteerism and charitable giving. The organization also promotes diversity and inclusion within the LGBTQ community by ensuring that its programs and grantmaking “reflect the vibrant diversity of our community,” Bayo said.
Additionally, about every three months, OUT Miami hosts a mixer for LGBTQ professionals to network, have fun and meet other people. The event rotates at different venues every quarter. Previous mixers have been held in Wynwood, Brickell, at the Hotel Gaythering and The Anderson in upper Eastside Miami. OUT Miami also hosts monthly gay bingo at the Hotel Gaythering. The event won Best Theme Night in South Florida Gay News’ “Best of 2017” readers poll.
“It’s a charity bingo, so up to $400 is up for grabs,” Bayo said. “And if you win, you get to spend your winnings with the charity of your choice.”
The next gay bingo takes place at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Hotel Gaythering, 1409 Lincoln Road. For more information on OUT Miami Foundation, visit http://www.outmiami.org.