More than 300 people got "Out of the Office" on June 3, trading a computer screen and a dishearteningly filled inbox for vodka cocktails and a selection of elegant hors d'oeuvres all under the backdrop of a summer sun setting below a magnificent view of the Chicago skyline. The Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Dream Town Realty and the Godfrey Hotel kicked off Pride month with the event held at the Godfrey's Urban Chicago Rooftop Lounge.
Additional photos at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .
"This evening is a great way to celebrate LGBTQ businesses," Chicago chamber President/CEO Christina Pinson said. "We are so happy that we could bring the community together in a positive way in a brand new Chicago venue."
"It's about being out and proud," agreed Len Mayerskywho was elected to the chair of the chamber earlier this year. "It's a great time to be gay and people have gay dollars to spend. Now that marriage equality is here, there's a lot of things people need from florists to estate planning so we are encouraging area LGBT businesses to get certified."
Certification through the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce verifies that LGBTQ individuals are majority business owners. "If business owners come to the [Chicago] chamber, we'll certify them for free," Mayersky said.
Pinson said that the goal is to have 50 businesses certified by the end of the year, adding that they are currently only nine away from that target.
Among the guests was Sam Powell, a real-estate professional with Dream Town Realty. She and her longtime partner have been a part of the company for the past three years. "Dream Town's been promoting and supporting our community," she said. "The launch of the Pride of Ownership [LGBT] division is empowering to all of us."
Jim Schiefelbein is an independent consultant who Dream Town Realty President/CEO Yuval Degani and Dream Town Client Services Division President Todd Szwajkowski commissioned to help them develop the LGBT division. Besides hosting community outreach events such as Out of the Office, the division offers a team of gay and lesbian real-estate professionals like Powell as well as online resources at www.dreamtown.com/LGBT. The objective is to make the lives of potential LGBTQ homebuyers as simple as possible with answers and information links regarding topics from property rights to credit and tax liability issues.
"Yuval and Todd wanted to create the first ever comprehensive division and it is indeed the first of its kind in the United States," Schiefelbein said. "We've also conducted the first formal study of the Chicago LGBT market as it relates to residential real estate."
That study was released in mid-May. Among its key findings were 95 percent of LGBT's surveyed preferring to work with a real estate firm that is "at least" LGBT-friendly. Fifty-seven percent of them still have concerns about the possibility of discrimination in the home buying process.
Still, Bill Greaves believes the community has advanced considerably even in the 11 years he spent as the city's liaison to the LGBTQ community for then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. "When I began it was a completely different world," he said. "Not that everything is perfect now. We need to develop more beds for LGBTQ homeless youth who have been alienated from our community. We need to have better and more public policies with the police in the treatment of transgender people. This is a city where people come from all over the world. Mayor Emmanuel should look at immigration policies and ensure that our community is treated equally."
David Tuccia career agent with Mutual of Omahahas been a member of the chamber for three years and sits on the membership committee of the board of directors. "We need to support and do good things for each other," he said. "We've been trying to host a lot more educational seminars on issues that affect all of us."
"There are more people here right now than the first pride event that I attended in Phoenix, Arizona, 35 years ago," Godfrey Hotel Area General Manager George Jordan noted. "I never thought the day would come when we were doing gay weddings at hotels. I'm thrilled for all of our friends in the community."
All proceeds from the evening benefitted the Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, please visit www.glchamber.org and www.dreamtown.com/LGBT .