Allentown’s Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center became one of a small number of Pennsylvania LGBTQ community centers to own its building after community members crowdsourced $50,000 to pay off the nonprofit’s mortgage last week.
The funds were raised by 93 people who attended the group’s annual fall gala Oct. 30. Air Products, an Allentown-headquartered international chemical industry company and corporate sponsor of Bradbury-Sullivan Center, fronted $25,000 and challenged attendees to contribute the other half of the organization’s remaining mortgage. The funds were raised during a 15-minute donating blitz, facilitated by text-to-give service GiveLively, which provided a live display of donor gifts on a screen.
On average, each donor contributed $311. Having the building’s mortgage paid off will allow the Bradbury-Sullivan Center to funnel more resources into the services it offers the region’s LGBTQ community, such as by supporting youth programming, hiring staff and doing additional social media and marketing outreach, said Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
“Being a mortgage-free organization means that we can put even more of our resources into programs and services that strengthen and make a more vibrant LGBT community here in Lehigh Valley,” he added. “Being mortgage-free means that we don’t have to worry about ever being priced out of downtown Allentown.”
The Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center launched in 2014 and opened its doors to the public two years later. The nonprofit borrowed a $240,000 mortgage from People First Federal Credit Union to facilitate its $340,000 building purchase in September 2015. The center's minimum monthly payment of about $1,600 deterred program fundraising, Shanker said, prompting the organization in 2017 to launch the Campaign for Equity, a fundraising effort to pay off the remaining $214,000 of the mortgage.
Following the gala, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center is working with People First Federal Credit Union to carry out a formal payoff of the mortgage.
The 2019 Fall Gala and LGBT Community Leadership Awards, attended by 290 people, honored labor union IBEW Local 375, King Spry law firm, Lizabeth Kay Kleintop, Judy Ochs and Bill McGlinn and Mark Mascolini. The event featured Mistress of Ceremonies Elektra Fearce St. James, Live Auctioneer Patrik Gallineaux and keynote speaker Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of Grindr for Equality.
According to an LGBT Community Center Survey Report by data nonprofit Movement Advancement Project, 27 percent of LGBTQ community centers in the United States own their buildings. Fewer operate without a mortgage payment, Shanker told PGN, noting that William Way LGBT Community Center is the only other such group in Pennsylvania that owns its building mortgage-free.
Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, told PGN the Philadelphia nonprofit paid off its mortgage in 2005 with a donation from gay rights activist Mel Heifetz. The organization bought its 1315 Spruce St. home in 1996.
Laurie Hackett, manager of community relations at Air Products, said the corporation’s $25,000 challenge contribution was among the “most meaningful” the company has done because of how it supports the goals of the “small but mighty” Bradbury-Sullivan Center.
“This is what matters,” she said. “This is our commitment to this community and to our employees and to diversity and inclusion.”
Shanker told PGN the crowdsourcing effort at the gala was “exhilarating.”
“I was looking out at our community and feeling such gratitude that our community was willing to step up,” he said, “and that it wasn’t one or two people that could make very large gifts, but that it’s 93 people who could make gifts of all sizes. That’s so powerful.”