With a sold out crowd, Greensboro’s Guilford Green Foundation feted six months of marriage equality at its Guilford Green Gala and after party on March 28.
Over 400 people joined in the annual celebration — this year dubbed the “wedding reception we’ve all been waiting for.” Held at The Proximity Hotel, attendees of the gala and after party were greeted with wedding-themed glitz and glamor as community members came together to raise funds supporting the foundation’s community grant programs and other work.
“It was completely fantastic,” says foundation Executive Director Brenna Ragghianti. “It was a sell-out crowd and we did better than we’ve ever done with the silent auction. It was a fun celebration, a fairy tale.”
The dinner’s theme came naturally after last fall’s marriage equality ruling in North Carolina and was dreamed up by gala co-chairs Cecelia Thompson, Nick Wyatt and Sarah Poole.
“They are a really creative group and they put their heads together and came up with the idea,” says Ragghianti. “They said that we have to stop and celebrate this huge accomplishment. It doesn’t mean our work is finished, but at least we can say, yes, we did this and pat each other on the back and raise our glasses in toast to success.”
The dinner and party, the group’s largest fundraiser each year, also honored community leaders for their work in and on behalf of the LGBT community. April Parker, founder of Greensboro’s Queer People of Color Collective, was given the group’s Leadership Award. Attorney Ron Johnson was given the Visionary Award, with Guilford Country Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen receiving the Service Award and former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan receiving the Dawn Chaney Award.
Parker got more than an award that night. Before the gala, a private wedding ceremony was held for Parker and her wife Nikki Mintz.
“It was gorgeous,” says Ragghianti. “They were able to invite 35 of their closest friends and family and get married in a private way and celebrate publicly in the gala.”
Guilford Green Foundation uses the money raised at the gala and other events, like their regular Green Queen Bingo activities, to fund grants to local non-profits. As needs shift and change in the LGBT community, the foundation also shifts its priorities and attention.
“Marriage equality didn’t end [the needs],” Ragghianti says. “We still have an epidemic of homeless LGBTQ youth. We still have transgender people who are denied housing and work and the ability to just use a public restroom. We have our elderly who are worried because they are actually being bullied back into the closet.”
Ragghianti adds, “GGF is really focused on trying to address those issues and people are interested. I think our events have been more greatly attended and people want to know how they can get in there and help. Once they find out what real issues are going on, no one can easily turn a blind eye to them.” : :