Best Of The Gays
Best LGBT Event
San Francisco Pride
The 46th annual San Francisco LGBT Pride parade and festival fill the last weekend in June with parties, pizazz, and a chance for everyone, LGBTQ or not, to celebrate our wonderfully diverse and welcoming city by the bay. Overseen by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, the parade and festival won the Besties' best LGBT event for the fourth consecutive year, making it a favorite for readers and the roughly 1 million people who attend or participate.
SF Pride officials were happy to hear the news.
"It is humbling to receive this honor from the B.A.R. readers, who are our neighbors and our peers, especially in a city with so many incredible and well-produced events," SF Pride Executive Director George Ridgely said in an email. "The recognition speaks to the level of dedication and hard work that the entire production team and board of directors invest in making SF Pride an annual success."
Ridgely remarked that last year, due to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, was "momentous for our movement."
"And that was certainly reflected in both our parade and celebration," he said.
Over the years, SF Pride board, staff, and members have worked to ensure that the event remains relevant.
"The theme for our upcoming event this June is 'For Racial and Economic Justice,' and I do believe that it resonates with the conversations happening around this country and the world," Ridgely said. "SF Pride has a 46-year history at the forefront of the fight for equality and justice, and our theme for 2016 is intended to shed light on the intersections of our movement with the broader population, as well as acknowledge our connected struggles and our obligation to address them."
Ridgely also noted that Pride is celebrated in cities and communities across the globe, and San Francisco has long been a part of that.
"Pride events around the world continue to provide a relevant platform for a chorus of voices to be heard and we take our part in that legacy very seriously," he said.
San Francisco Pride is June 25-26. http://www.sfpride.org.
Folsom Street Fair
Best LGBT Fundraiser, Best HIV/AIDS Nonprofit
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is the winner of both categories this year. Its AIDS/LifeCycle, in which it partners with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, won for fundraising, while the agency itself won best HIV/AIDS nonprofit, a new category this year.
Senior Vice President James Loduca told the B.A.R. that the foundation "wouldn't be the organization we are if people didn't support the LifeCycle and our activities."
"It's as much a community honor as it is ours," he said. "Without the community, the foundation doesn't exist."
The LifeCycle brought in $16.67 million last year. The 545-mile weeklong bicycle trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles increased participation this year by 200 riders, up to 2,700, and Loduca said that registration sold out earlier than ever before. It takes place June 5-11.
"That could only happen in a special place like California," Loduca said, referring to the event filling up. "People continue to be touched by" HIV/AIDS and the ride's impact on participants.
As for the foundation itself, it opened the new Strut men's health center in the Castro in early January and after what Loduca said were a few natural "hiccups," things are running smoothly.
"We're really excited to see strong interest from all parts of the community," he said. "The biggest challenge now is that all our community events have grown faster than we anticipated. It speaks to how eager the community was for this model."
The building houses the foundation's services geared toward gay, bisexual, and trans men, including sexual health services (formerly Magnet), substance use services (formerly the Stonewall Project), Positive Force, the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network for men age 50 and older, the DREAAM Project for young African-American men, and the Bridgemen volunteer program.
In other news, the foundation's new CEO, Joe Hollendoner, is expected to start in the position May 2. A gay man, Hollendoner is from Chicago, where he most recently served as the first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Academy Awards Gala (Academy of Friends)
AIDS Emergency Fund
Best Health-Related Nonprofit
Project Open Hand
This is the second year that Project Open Hand has been recognized by B.A.R. readers; last year it won in the best LGBT nonprofit category. This year's honor is in a new category, which recognizes organizations that provide services to people with various health issues.
Open Hand, as it's known, "prepares 2,500 nutritious meals and provides 200 bags of groceries every day, nourishing nearly 8,000 critically ill neighbors and seniors in San Francisco and Alameda counties," Tara Blake, marketing and communications officer, said in an email.
Blake said the agency is "delighted" to receive a Bestie award.
"We are working tirelessly to advocate for our neighbors in need and we're overjoyed about B.A.R. readers' vote of confidence," Blake said.
Open Hand has been seeing new intake levels "greater than we've seen since 1996," Blake said, adding that the agency's services are "needed now more than ever."
Like most nonprofits, Open Hand also relies on the Bay Area's support.
"It is only through our incredible donors that we can effectively instill hope and provide food as medicine to our clients in need," Blake added.
In other news, Open Hand, which Co-CEOs Mark Ryle and Simon Pitchford had led for the last year, announced this month that it's returning to a single CEO model with Ryle at the helm. [See related story.]
Project Open Hand, 730 Polk Street, San Francisco, (415) 447-2300; 1921 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, (510) 622-0221. http://www.openhand.org.
Lyon-Martin Health Services
Best LGBT Nonprofit
The Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, or LYRIC for short, has been working with LGBTQQ youth for decades and has its well-recognized Lavender House in the Castro. It's a new winner this year. Longtime Executive Director Jodi Schwartz said that the organization is successful because it's "built by and for LGBTQQ young people, with the support of adult allies who believe that youth have the power and vision to shape their own successful futures."
Schwartz said that in the last year alone, LYRIC's impact on the lives of LBTQQ youth and allies has reached 1,159 people through direct services and 3,376 people through outreach. Of the youth receiving direct services, 79 percent are youth of color, 100 percent are low-income, 67 percent are under 18 years old, and 33 percent are 18-24.
Teachers, nurses, other community organizations refer youth to the agency, but mostly, Schwartz said, youth bring other youth to LYRIC.
LYRIC creates a network of supports for LGBTQQ youth at three levels: youth advocacy (individual level); community building (interpersonal level); and workforce development (community engagement level).
"In doing so, LYRIC provides disconnected LGBTQQ youth stability and a safety net by creating education and economic development opportunities designed specifically for them so they can move beyond merely surviving to flourishing as productive and connected young adults," Schwartz said.
Last year, 334 youth engaged in youth advocacy available on-site at LYRIC as well as at the Dimensions Clinic, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center's youth meal night, and at school sites across the city, Schwartz said.
Importantly, LYRIC works to inspire positive social change with the youth it serves. This is partly in response to dealing with the challenges of rejection LGBTQQ youth experience by family and community and a lack of access to institutional support "due to the interacting forms of oppression they encounter in schools, social service agencies, and workplaces," Schwartz explained.
"Love, belonging, and connection are the universal sources of well-being," Schwartz said, in response to a question about what makes LYRC a special local nonprofit. And to help those young people who experienced a trail of broken relationships, LYRIC's mission to build community often resonates with the youth that it serves.
Schwartz added that this year marks the agency's 28th anniversary. It will hold an open house Thursday, April 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 127 Collingwood Street. The event is free and open to all. To RSVP, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1773400006216396/?active_tab=highlights.
LYRIC, 127 Collingwood Street, San Francisco, (415) 703-6150. http://www.lyric.org.
Best LGBT Sports League
SF Gay Softball League
A repeat winner in this category, the San Francisco Gay Softball Association has been providing fun for players and their fans for more than 40 years, making it one of the oldest gay athletic groups around.
Commissioner Vincent Fuqua said that opening day took place March 20, delayed a couple weeks due to weather.
"Although it rained on and off we were able to still play, for the most part, and our members were amazing to deal with the inclement weather that day," Fuqua said in an email.
He said that he sees several reasons for the league's popularity.
"I believe that it is an opportunity for people to be social and active at the same time," Fuqua said. "It is a way where you can meet new people and develop amazing friendships and it is remarkable to see that transpire."
While teams compete on the field, off the field there is a sense of camaraderie, he explained.
"Our members are able to separate [competitiveness] that off the field and maintain amazing connections with one another," Fuqua said.
The league offers play at all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, and players help each other out.
"More importantly, we make it a safe space where you can truly be yourself," Fuqua said. "For instance, we have a drag team, we have a transgender team, and this year we added a team for players who are 50 years and older. We always do our best to make sure that everyone finds a team, even if that means we have to create a whole new team.
"We are not just a sports organization, we are a community, we are family who establishes long-lasting friendships," he said.
SF Gay Softball League, http://www.sfgsl.org.
SF Fog Rugby Club