The Center: Black and White Gala

The Center: Black and White Gala

It is time once again for the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida’s signature event. The Center’s annual Black and White Gala has returned grander than ever in its third year, and will be held on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the Orlando Museum of Art (2416 N. Mills Ave., Orlando). Attire is requested as “black and white,” but can be as dressy or as casual as you like.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour, followed by a VIP five-course dinner at 7 p.m. prepared by one the event sponsors, John Michael Events. Each course will come with a wine specifically paired for that dish. A live auction will also occur during the VIP dinner. At 8:30 p.m., guests will be served a variety of desserts and will be encouraged to view the Orlando Museum of Art’s extensive collection, all the while being regaled by live music and other live entertainment. There will also be a silent auction, for people who were not present to bid on live auction items. Attendees can bid on a range of prizes from gift baskets to excursions.

The CenterAll proceeds from the Black and White Gala will benefit The Center. The Center, located at 946 N. Mills Ave. in Orlando, is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing, educating, supporting and advocating on behalf of the LGBT community and its allies. It was first incorporated as Gay Community Services in 1981 and serves over 15,000 people per year.

Tickets can be purchased online by going to thecenterorlando.org/bw. VIP tickets, including the VIP meal and access to the live auction, cost $150 per person, while general admission tickets are $30 per person. There are also sponsorship levels available for purchase, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. More information is available on The Center’s website at thecenterorlando.org.

I talked to The Center’s Interim Executive Director, Russell Walker, about the event and how the money raised translates into The Center’s continued operation.

Tell us why The Center chose the Orlando Museum of Art for this year’s Gala venue.

We always had the plan that when we do the Black and White Gala, that it wasn’t ever going to be in the same venue twice. What we want to do is to put the Gala together in a unique venue every year. That’s one of the reasons why we picked the Orlando Museum of Art. It’s such a phenomenal, beautiful building. I think it was a good marriage of our two organizations considering that the Museum is celebrating its 90th birthday this year.

What things about the Gala are changing this year?

The Gala setup is similar to last year’s. We have the five course VIP meal by John Michael Events. They’ve done a lot for us to put this event on. We still have the cocktail hour and the light entertainment beforehand, and then we move through to the dinner and there will be a live singer on hand, and then there’s the main event…we found that keeping this sort of main flow has worked very well previously.

Are you happy with the way the event has grown?

Oh, yes. We doubled our fundraising abilities last year and I hope we can do that again this year. It’s tough because there are a lot of events and fundraisers going on in October in Orlando. It’s a busy time of year but I’m very happy with the way the event has grown.

Can you tell us how the money raised at the Gala helps The Center continue its operations throughout the year?

All the money that we raise goes back into the programs that we have launched at The Center. We’re also using this money to further programs that we’re going to launch in 2015. Then of course we are also looking into renovations for our offices. But the money also helps to keep our doors open and to continue offering free HIV testing seven days a week.

For someone who has never attended the Black and White Gala before, what would you like them to know about it and what should they expect once they arrive?

Because The Center itself is much more of a grassroots organization, we try to make sure that it’s easy for everyone to attend the Gala. There’s a VIP dinner and there’s a general admission time period after that, which makes it easier for a lot of people to show their support, especially considering it’s such a busy time of year.

Plus there’s the dress code which is just “black and white.” We’ve had people come out in ball gowns and tuxes, and we’ve had people who’ve worn black shorts and T-shirts. It’s an amazing and eclectic group of people, so I’d say it’s a Gala and dinner that’s accessible to everyone.