Event raises $55,000 for lesbian health organization
Valentine’s Day came early for more than 350 guests gathered at the Doubletree in downtown Houston for Lesbian Health Initiative’s 10th annual Celebration of Love. The gala marked 20 years of the Lesbian Health Initiative’s continuing focus on eliminating barriers to healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-identified women. The annual event grossed $55,000, a record for the organization that provides LHI’s health and wellness ‘Education, Access and Awareness’ programs.
Liz James, currently serving in her first year as LHI’s first CEO, opened the evening’s festivities by referencing a 1995 LHI Houston area study indicating barriers to health care among the LGBT community. Barriers included the lack of health insurance, fear of telling doctors about one’s sexuality or sexual history, having a healthcare provider who does not know the disease risks or the issues that affect LGBT women, and not understanding one’s risk for health issues and disease.
“The amazing thing to me is that it is 2012 and the barriers identified in 1995 still exist today. We have made progress, but our community is still stigmatized, underfunded and under counted.”
James did, however, recognize advances including an increase in the number of LGBT women aware and seeking healthcare services via biannual LHI Health Fairs and an increase in partnerships with health care providers.
“My vision for LHI is that together, as a community, we remove barriers, we build acceptance so that everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identification or gender expression has equal and clear access to health and wellness services,” James concluded.
The evening’s recognitions focused on highlighting the contributions of a volunteer who has been with LHI since its inception and those of a longtime advocate and health care partner.
Scottie Scott, an outgoing LHI board member received the LHI Volunteer of the Year award for her 20 years of commitment to LHI. Dorothy Gibbons, CEO and Co-Founder of The Rose, was recognized for the nonprofit breast cancer organization’s 14-year partnership with LHI providing breast health services at LHI Health Fairs and certificates for screenings.
Kiki Newmann, a ten-year breast cancer survivor, introduced Gibbons and provided one of many challenges to the audience to continue to make their personal health a priority, “I want you all to take away with you this evening is that early detection does save lives, it saved mine. I would very likely not be standing here before you if it were not for the early detection services provided by LHI and the Rose.”
In accepting her award, Gibbons noted that Scott was both a friend and fellow breast cancer advocate in that she, along with Gibbons, were among a select group of organizers who made possible the first breast health summit and which lead to the formation of the Breast Health Collaborative.
2012 LHI Gala Co-Chairs, Cora Wilson and Wendy Oehlman welcomed other dignitaries to the event including Mayor Annise Parker and First Lady Kathy Hubbard, Judge Steven Kirkland, Judge Charles Spain, and former Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell.
Singer Ginger Leigh emceed the program while comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer and DJ Melle Mel Faustus provided entertainment. lhihouston.org.