Holiday with HeartWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
Toledo Free Press has, from the beginning, supported LGBT-friendly issues like domestic partner benefits and equal marriage rights. In addition to basic human respect and dignity arguments, there are sound business reasons for operating with an inclusive mindset. It is a recruitment tool and an inevitable element of retaining quality employees. When a domestic partner benefits proposal went before Toledo City Council in May, it was reported that “21 states and over 200 local governments, at least 98 Fortune 100 companies, 442 Fortune 500 companies, and approximately 9,000 other private companies, non-profit organizations and unions provide health insurance and other benefits to their employees’ domestic partners. In Toledo, these employers include the University of Toledo, Lucas County, Owens Corning and the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce. Furthermore, the cities of Cleveland, Columbus and Franklin County offer their employees domestic partner benefits and at least 14 Ohio public and private universities and colleges offer these benefits.”
But it took a meeting with local LGBT advocate Rick Cornett almost four years ago to open my eyes to some specific issues. Cornett challenged Toledo Free Press to offer a voice to specific individuals and to cover LGBT events and fundraisers as part of its regular coverage. That conversation led to our involvement with two annual events, the Toledo Pride Festival and Parade and Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla.
Through these efforts, Toledo Free Press has been proud to work with the LGBT community and I have met some amazing people and made some wonderful friends. In addition to my admiration for Cornett and his tireless work for the Toledo community, getting to know Toledo Pride’s Lexi Staples and Emily Hickey has been one of the best rewards of my eight years with Toledo Free Press. Hickey, who is as lovely and loving a person as you are going to meet, and Cornett contribute regular columns to Toledo Free Press Star. In addition to her take-no-prisoners approach to taking care of business, Staples works for such artistic causes as the Toledo Opera and allowed us to use the recording of her late father, Dennis Staples, reading “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” for this year’s “Holiday Wishes 2” CD benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation.
For three years, Toledo Free Press has sponsored Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla, which raises funds for local LGBT organizations. The event takes place at the Toledo Club, which is holiday ready with its parade of decorated trees. This year’s Dec. 1 event, which hosted the largest crowd in its 35-year history, was a typically lavish and fun affair. The evening began with music by the Kelly Broadway Duo, which set a classy atmosphere as guests entered and made their way to the third floor, where the program began.
It is a testament to the Holiday with Heart directors — David Bingham, Cornett, Ed Hoffman, Andrew Larson, Wayne North and Kenyetta White — that a 35-year-old event is still cresting in attendance and quality. The music, decorations and mood are top-shelf. This year’s event benefited The Toledo Pride Foundation, The Toledo Region Office of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, The Gay and Lesbian Student Endowment Fund at the University of Toledo and The Holiday with Heart Fund at the Toledo Community Foundation. A representative from each group spoke as people mingled and started the party.
There was a performance by dancers from the Toledo Ballet, before dinner was served on the first floor, which featured tables filling all three areas of the main floor. During dinner, male models from Cityboyz circled the tables, selling raffle tickets (in lengths determined by inseam or bust measurements). Toledo Club members may normally be expected to wear jackets when dining, but the Cityboyz models were dressed in just the latest underwear fashions. I’m not sure who was more worked up over the Cityboyz models, the gay men or the straight women, but it looked like a lot of raffle tickets were sold. Tom Brooks Studio was on hand to take photos and after dinner people migrated back to the third floor for dessert and dancing, with DJ Martha Rappoport.
One of the guests, seeing the many notable business and community leaders in attendance, wondered why there were so few elected officials on hand. This is clearly a huge opportunity to court a political alliance going to waste, he noted, and he is absolutely right.
During the program before dinner, Cornett presented Toledo Free Press with the event’s Founder’s Award, which is given annually to a supporter of the LGBT community. It is a humbling and overwhelming honor. As I said at the event, while I determine our editorial direction, the paper’s sponsorships and advertising dollars are the discretion of our publisher, Tom Pounds. I closed my brief remarks by saying that I understand the Holiday with Heart recognition is not about Toledo Free Press somehow accepting the gay community; it is about the gay community somehow accepting Toledo Free Press.
For that, we are appreciative and grateful.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.