The Giving Season

Local gay party planning company and friends give back during the holidays

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 10, 2011 in Cover Stories, Featured Stories

Originally Published: Dec. 10, 2011, 7:15 a.m.
Updated: Dec. 13, 2011, 12:08 p.m.

In 2010, Twirl to the World collected some 300 individual toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots.

Charlotte party production company Just Twirl knows how to have a good time. For the past three years they’ve been dazzling Charlotte’s gay nightlife scene with unique parties ranging from Memorial Day Weekend-long extravaganzas to one-night get-downs with military, racing and Hollywood themes.

“Life may not be the party that we hoped for, but while we’re here, we should dance,” is their motto. “We should also give back,” adds company co-owner Zuni Johnson.

This year’s Just Twirl Christmas party, Twirl to the World, was the third time the company geared up for the holidays with a special celebration meant to to do just that. From gifts for needy to children and housing and heat for the poor, Twirl to the World and those who attended the event with donations in-hand made a real difference.

The annual holiday party, held Dec. 10 at the Visulite Theatre, was unlike other Just Twirl events. The company makes zero profit off the event. Johnson, his partner Jason McCraw and a larger group of friends and community members come together to pay for the full cost of the event, including entertainment, the event venue and decorations.

Twirl to the World’s 2010 party hosts pose for a photo on the Visulite’s stage

“We all contribute our own funds,” says party co-host Scott Bishop. “All of the proceeds at the door and gifts donated at the door go directly to charity.”

This year, the party will support Charlotte’s Crisis Assistance Ministry and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots.

“With everything going on in the word with the economy and people losing their jobs, there’s still time to celebrate and give back to those less fortunate — to make the holiday season brighter,” Johnson says.

The party’s 14 hosts hope their party sends a message of inclusion into the broader community. Choosing non-LGBT charities this year was by design, Johnson says.

“We are more than just that one part of ourselves,” Johnson says. “We’re demonstrating that to our community, that it goes both ways. We give to the LGBT community and we also go beyond that.”

Twirl to the World’s first party in 2009 collected teddy bear donations for Share-A-Bear Foundation, a group that distributes teddy bears to children infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.

“We collected 1,100 teddy bears,” Johnson says.

Last year, the party supported Toys for Tots and Time Out Youth. The continued support this year of the Marine Corps’ signature holiday charity program was intentional.

Twirl to the World’s inaugural party collected 1,100 teddy bears for the Share-A-Bear Foundation.

“We reached out directly to the local U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots coordinator,” says Johnson. “With the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ we really wanted this to be a part of it — a primarily LGBT event planning company donating toys.”

LGBT-inclusive holiday giving has become a hot-button issue in recent times. Washington, D.C.-based blogger Bil Browning caused a firestorm last month when he posted his annual warning not to give to the Salvation Army, a group that maintains anti-LGBT discriminatory employment policies and religious doctrines.

Bishop says Twirl to the World put in extra effort to ensure its party-goers’ donations wouldn’t end up in the hands of organizations with anti-gay causes.

Keeping costs low for attendees, organizers say, was also intentional and meant to increase attendance and participation. An already-low entry fee was lowered to just a few bucks when a party-goer came with gift in-hand.

Johnson says he hopes even those who were unable to attend Twirl to the World will think about donating to the cause. Those who missed the event can contact the group at info@justtwirl.com to learn how they can have their gifts combined with other Twirl to the World participants’ donations. : :