As it has for 15 years, Out of the Office heralded the beginning of Pride month in Chicago June 1.
The 2016 event drew more than 600 people who traded in the view from their desks at businesses across the city for the panorama offered by the luxurious Godfrey Hotel's roof scape patio of a downtown Chicago soaked in the setting sun of a perfect summer evening.
While enjoying a drink and a luscious selection of hors d'oeuvres, attendees at Out of the Office also helped two charities supported by this year's eventThe Pride Action Tank ( a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ) and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois.
For Andrew Hayes the unbound jubilance that both surrounded him and drowned out his attempt to make a speech seemed impossible when he first created Out of the Office.
"Fifteen years ago, being a gay man who wore a suit every day, I had to go to gay bars where all the windows were blacked out," he told Windy City Times. "I wanted to come up with an event where I could leave my office and go downtown to a non-gay bar and be with my community to celebrate Pride."
This year's choice of charities was just as significant for Hayes.
"The Chamber of Commerce is really unifying LGBT-owned businesses together," he said. "When I think about all the work that the Pride Action Tank is doing for homeless youth I remember that, by the grace of God, I was not a homeless youth. I very well could have been. My parents had a difficult time dealing with my outing so they could have said 'leave and never come back'. I was lucky they did not."
Hayes added that he expected the event to raise between three and five thousand dollars.
The money will be divided between the two organizations.
"It's a little bit of cash that allows them to do something that they had not planned on doing," he said with a smile.
"We are doing tremendous work with the help of community around LGBT youth homelessness, issues related to LGBT seniors and also issues related to the transgender community," Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt told the crowd.
She encouraged them to join in the efforts of the organization's Chicago Restroom Access Project ( CRAP ) which will be providing testimony at a June 8 Chicago City Council Human Relations Committee public hearing to remove a requirement that patrons show a government-issued ID in order to access public accommodations. The hearing is 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the City Council chambers.
"Our community cannot wait for solutions from the outside, we have to do this work from the inside," Hunt added.
LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois Executive Director Gerardo Rodriguez noted that this was a 20th anniversary year for the only organization of its kind in the state.
"This is a banner year for us," he said before inviting the audience to the Chamber's upcoming Nov. 17 anniversary gala.
Godfrey Hotel senior events manager Sandi Robinson said that Out of the Office was near and dear to her heart. This is the third year the Godfrey has served as the event's venue.
For more information about the Pride Action Tank, visit: www.facebook.com/PrideActionTank .
For information about the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, visit lgbtcc.com .
For information about the Godfrey Hotel, visit: www.godfreyhotelchicago.com .