DVLF to honor community ‘heroes’

LGBT grantmaking organization Delaware Valley Legacy Fund will host its annual Heroes celebration next month to pay tribute to the people and organizations that have fueled the local LGBT community’s success over the past year.

DVLF will present its individual Hero award to Gloria Casarez, the city’s director of LGBT affairs; the nonprofit award to AIDS Fund; and the corporate prize to PNC Wealth Management during the Sept. 25 event at F.U.E.L. House, 249 Arch St.

The organization has hosted the community celebration since 2004, with the inaugural award being presented to Barbara Gittings, but didn’t call the event “Heroes” until 2007. Last year, the group selected openly gay Lansdowne Borough Councilmember Kevin Lee, Planned Parenthood of Bucks County’s Rainbow Room and Citigroup as its honorees.

Perry Monastero, DVLF executive director, said this year the local LGBT community played a more prominent role in the selection of the award recipients.

Monastero explained that prior to last year’s event, DVLF sent out messages to its supporters asking for suggestions for honorees. This year, however, that process began almost a year ahead of time and was more formal.

“We announced at the Heroes event last year that we wanted this to really be a public process this year,” Monastero said. “And, starting last fall, we e-mailed all the people who’ve ever been to Heroes events, asking them to nominate people, and we posted an application on our Web site, which we also sent out to a lot of community organizations.”

Once DVLF received the applications, the agency’s outreach and grantmaking committee reviewed them and made recommendations to the organization’s board, which voted on the final winners.

Monastero said each honoree has gone “above and beyond” in the past year to advocate for the LGBT community.

He noted that Casarez, whom Mayor Nutter appointed to the liaison position last summer, has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to the local LGBT community.

“Gloria is a very special, wonderful person with many, many years of dedication to the community,” he said. “She’s done a great job in her 9-5 hours, but she is so involved in the community beyond that. She really lives and breathes as a community organizer.”

Casarez said she is very grateful for the recognition, especially considering the past recipients.

“I’m truly honored to be receiving this award. I’m truly, truly honored. When you look at the people who’ve received the award, like Barbara Gittings, Mel Heifitz and Gov. Rendell — these are key leaders and allies — so I feel like I’m in really exceptional company. This is a big honor.”

Monastero said one of the individuals who nominated AIDS Fund, which raises money for local HIV/AIDS causes, noted that the organization’s GayBINGO event hit the $2-million fundraising mark in the last year — a feat which, coupled with the organization’s many other accomplishments, made it deserving of the Hero honor.

“To reach that threshold with just one program is really significant. And that’s only one piece of what the AIDS Fund does to raise money to support the community.”

The corporate honor did not garner as many application forms as the nonprofit and individual awards, Monastero said, but the winner nonetheless has demonstrated a wealth of support for the community.

“PNC has been a very effective partner in the local LGBT community,” he said. “They’ve made several-year commitments to a number of community organizations and they promote LGBT philanthropy within their staff. They’re a great ally.”

The Heroes celebration will kick off with a VIP reception from 6-7 p.m., followed by a cocktail party, silent auction, LGBT art exhibit and the awards presentation from 7-9 p.m.

Individual ticket prices are $40 until Sept. 1 and $50 afterward. There are also VIP and host tickets available.

Tickets will not be sold at the door.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.dvlf.org.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].