DVLF honors community leaders
by Angela Thomas
Mar 13, 2014 | 600 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund will present its 2014 HEROES awards later this month, recognizing a diverse array of community leaders.

The event will be held from 12:30-3:30 p.m. March 30 at Hotel Monaco.

DVLF executive director Samantha Giusti said the brunch format first used last year will make a return.

“It is going to be very similar to last year and even the selection process was similar,” she said. “We really solidified the way the event looked. It is more what everybody loved last year with a brunch buffet, open bar and the opportunity to honor people in our community.”

Last year also saw the introduction of the first-ever Lifetime Legacy Award, and this year’s recipient is philanthropist Mel Heifetz, 78.

Giusti said Heifetz’s work embodies the legacy award, which honors a longtime community advocate.

“He has been a supporter of many LGBT community organizations at so many critical times in the course of their history,” she said. “Between his philanthropy and involvement in LGBT establishments and business, he has been a pillar of the community for a number of years.”

Heifetz added that he is honored to be getting an award from an organization that works hard for the community.

“It is coming from a community-based organization that does outreach to get support to build a future for our community,” he said.

The organization will honor two public officials actively involved in the state’s marriage-equality movement — out Rep. Brian Sims, who will receive the Community Award, and Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who will receive the Straight Ally Award.

Giusti said Sims has been a true champion for LGBT rights in Pennsylvania. However, Sims told PGN that DVLF is the one fighting for equality on the front lines.

“DVLF is a fantastic organization with a long and storied history in supporting the struggle for equality,” he said. “It is exactly the type of progressive, forward-thinking group for which Philadelphia is so well known.”

Giusti said it was important for the organization and the community to recognize the work allies have done to further equality. She said Hanes, who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples last summer, used his position to do good for the community.

“Allies in the movement are so important because if you look to history, any time there has been any civil-rights or equality movement, whether it is about race or class or about immigration, it is so much stronger when you have allies step forward,” she said. “Hanes looked beyond himself on how he can make the situation better for other folks.”

Hanes told PGN that his decision was a simple one.

“I am often asked why I did it and I always say because nobody asked me before,” he said. “It all comes down to individuals and reminds me of the importance of individuals.”

Giovanni’s Room will receive the Business/Corporation Award while the City of Brotherly Love Softball League is the recipient of the Nonprofit Organization Award.

Giusti said this is the first year DVLF will recognize a nonprofit sports organization. She said groups such as CBLSL help create affirming environments for LGBT athletes.

CBLSL commissioner Steve Mast said the organization was honored to have received the award, recognizing its 30 years of hard work.

“Sports leagues, physical activity and competition is for everyone and a great outlet for any LGBT person,” he said. “It is a place for people to come, socialize and meet new friends all while participating in a sport. People are more accepting.”

Giusti said Giovanni’s Room, celebrating its 40th anniversary, has been a cornerstone of the LGBT community.

“The LGBT community has leaders and members that make it up but it is also businesses that provide a gathering place for our community,” she said. “LGBT rights have evolved but, at the beginning, Giovanni’s Room 40 years ago was a place people could go to feel safe.”

The Youth Award will be presented to The Attic Youth Center member Donald Jackson. Jackson, a Philadelphia native, has been involved with the center for more than six years, working with the Bryson Institute’s Get H.Y.P.E. (Helping Youth Provide Empowerment).

“He inspires other youth at The Attic,” Giusti said.

The DVLF HEROES Award ceremony will be held at Hotel Monaco, 433 Chestnut St. Tickets are $125 per individual and $1,125 per table of 10 guests. For more information, visit http://www.dvlf.org.

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