Keeping holidays bright amid Covid

Miguel Martinez-Valle and Bev hosted Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s TOY 2020 fundraiser.

As of this week, nearly 90,000 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 2,200 have died from the pandemic, and the city is under “Safer at Home” restrictions to help quell the spread. But for our local non-profits who are here to provide comfort and offer support for LGBTQ people, it’s simply not possible to withdraw completely from the public. PGN spoke with community leaders who are continuing to give back during this atypical holiday season.

“Every year during the holidays, the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) hosts TOY,” said Bill Leffler, treasurer at the DVLF. “It is an event which provides a showcase to celebrate the organizations that are recognized by our grantmaking. The grant cycle opens in September. The organizations support our mission by meeting the needs, securing the rights and celebrating the lives of LGBTQ+ people in our region.” 

Grant recipients this year include the Attic Youth Center, Qunify, Presente Media, Prevention Meets Fashion Inc., Uplift Center for Grieving Children, Philly Black Pride, The Welcome Project PA, Bebashi-Transition of Hope and William Way LGBT Community Center. That the showcase had to go digital this year didn’t take away from the success of the event. TOY 2020 has garnered donations from watchers which will be gifted to ActionWellness.

“If you would like to watch an encore performance,” Leffler said, “the TOY event remains live. As a follow up to the event, the link and password were emailed to our supporters.  We have even received a few donations through the text to give platform since the showcase aired.”

Kevin Burns, the executive director of ActionWellness, was impressed with how DVLF was able to pull off their showcase virtually. His group is especially thankful for the funds gifted to them while so many nonprofits are struggling to keep up their community involvement and services. 

“We are very grateful and impressed by how creative they were getting the show live virtually this year,” Burns added. “We have been doing a lot of engagements virtually through social media, email blasts, and the like. Saint Luke and the Epiphany did a benefit for us this year as well which helped a lot.” 

The William Way LGBT Community Center is continuing their tradition of sharing holiday meals with the community. However, much like their Thanksgiving offerings (which they called Turkey to-Go) meals will be distributed at the center but sadly their doors are closed for congregating indoors. 

“William Way will be providing a holiday dinner, first come first served, to 150 community members on December 25th starting at 1pm,” shared Chris Bartlett, executive director at the center. “Meals will be provided outside the Center to be taken away. We also welcome everyone to come to our website to see our programmatic offerings, and send our best wishes for happy holidays and New Year to all.” 

A photo on their newsletter shows a gathering during happier times, with guests in the Mark Segal Ballroom. In the image from December 25th, 2017 Celena Morrison, director of the City Hall’s Office of LGBT Affairs stands at a crockpot. This year, her office will be providing the boxed meals to go. 

A bit further south from the William Way Center, Mazzoni Center is also making sure the holiday season is not forgotten during the pandemic. They, like many others, had to reorganize their annual “friends-giving” in November. Instead, last month they went out into the community to distribute nearly 200 meals to their patients who needed them most. 

“Because we know this year is even harder economically for some of our patients, we are working on our annual toy and coat drive and are slated to support nearly 30 families,” said Larry Benjamin, Mazzoni’s director of communications. “And our behavioral health team has updated their annual holiday guide designed to help folks navigate the holiday season and its attendant stresses. Taken altogether, these efforts amount to our way of holding our community close while remaining six feet apart.”

To view an encore performance of TOY, click here.

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