Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) hosted its 40th birthday party, "Garden of Eve Pride XL," Nov. 7 at Venue One in Chicago's West Loop.
"Social justice is hard work," said HBHC President and CEO David Ernesto Munar. "We need points in time to gather, reflect, rejoice and recount the past and look toward the future."
The annual "Garden of Eve" party benefited a range of programs supporting health equality for women, youth, transgender and elder services at HBHC. Munar calls the event a community reminder of how critical attention to LGBTQ health and wellness is as part of the march toward full equality.
"We were founded as an organization months after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders and today we celebrate 40 years of continuous community services months after Illinois instituted marriage equality," said Munar. "Access to LGBTQ-affirming healthcare and wellness remains paramount for our communities. 'Garden of Eve' celebrates our many accomplishments in community health and anticipates the many ways we will attend to community needs far into the future."
Close to 400 guests spent the evening mingling, enjoying food and cocktails and participating in a tiered raffle. The spacious room set the party scene as it resembled a dance club filled with vibrant multi-colored lighting, while DJ All the Way Kay, DJ Katie Kirby and DJ Gloria Alers spun their jams competing in a Battle of the DJs.
The VIP reception kicked off the event. Raffle prizes included a complimentary all-inclusive week-long trip on Olivia's Punta Cana Resort and a customized little black dress by Designer Elda de la Rosa.
"It's nice to see so many people interested, so many people caring about it and contributing with their dollars," said HBHC Manager of Geriatric Services Cec Hardacker. "If the election that just happened doesn't tell us one thing, it is we need to be proactive. We need to be the ones that are not setting the agenda, but being in the forefront and saying, 'we recognize this as a problem and we're going to support it with our dollars, with our policies, with our votes.'"
On stage, Munar addressed the room thanking people past and present contributing HBHC's mission, highlighting recent accomplishments and mentioned the organization's work and the next steps to serve the community and continue to develop.
"A brighter future for LGBTQ people depends on good health," said Munar on his main concerns. "Better longevity and vitality for our community is critical, and if we urgently address health disparities in the LGBTQ community, it is eminently possible. The next chapter for this organization will focus tirelessly on meeting the needs of our diverse LGBTQ community and our allies."
"Howard Brown is super committed to trans health," said Blue, HRSA Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Transgender Women of Color (TWOC) program manager. "I think that trans people historically have been traumatized by the medical community and Howard Brown has been one of the only places in the U.S. that serves trans people and does it with pride."
Susana Darwin and Amy Walsh, John McGowan, Bethany Minor, Mary Morten, Jackie Richter and Denise Scarpelli served as the event's co-chairs. Sponsors included Walgreens, Abbvie, Gilead, MillerCoors, PepsiCo, Health Brand Group, Olivia Travel, Northern Trust, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Design Construction Concepts/Mosaic Construction, LLC and CNA.
"We want to inspire our community to join us in championing innovations in health for LGBT people and allies," said Munar. "We are a healthcare provider, but so much more. We heal the community. We are a partner and innovator for solutions to better health and better lives. We need community actors, supports, donors, friends, and patients to fulfill our transformational mission. At our core, we are an advocacy organization, catalyzing change in healthcare and health outcomes for the betterment of LGBTQ people and our allies."
For more information, visit: howardbrown.org ,