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July 17, 2009


Lake setting adds charm to center’s 20th garden party

Cleveland--For any nonprofit organization, having an event reach the 20-year mark is a major accomplishment.

Having the 20th anniversary of a fundraiser be one of the most successful, despite an economy in recession, is almost as miraculous as a second year of clement weather and sunshine for an outdoor gathering.

Both feats, however, were accomplished by the Cleveland LGBT Center’s Garden Party on July 12, returning for the second year to the backyards of the Shore Acres neighborhood in North Collinwood, overlooking a glittering Lake Erie.

With a host committee comprised of 50 people, including Cleveland City Councilor Joe Cimperman and his wife Nora Romanoff and Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, the event was paid for before the first ticket was purchased, so the 200 people who expressed their support by attending were immediately benefiting the center.

Chef Bob Sferra of Culinary Occasions provided the feast, replete with salmon, vegetarian sushi, fresh fruit and 20th anniversary cupcakes, among other delicacies.

Outside of the “Pagoda House,” sponsor and donor relations coordinator Mary Zaller greeted guests dressed in her finest chinoiserie, an elegant silk dress purchased in Toronto’s Chinatown and baubles to match.

Behind the house, the backyard, and that of the neighbors on either side, was given over to the celebration, with a large canopy covering the silent auction items.

Artwork, gift baskets, services and other items were laid out on tables, and the bidding was fierce. Around $6,800 was raised on 25 items.

A new feature this year was a list of items that the center needs, along with their amounts. Guests could donate to a specific cause instead of the more abstract notion of the center’s general operating fund.

Among these concrete needs are folding chairs for the meeting rooms, bean bag chairs for the youth space, training in the database management software and other such necessities.

Flanking the silent auction were two bars, one providing soft drinks and wine, the other slinging martinis.

Behind it all was a stairwell leading to what was once a boathouse, now an escape for the owner of the home when his wife wants some peace and quiet.

Scott Stettin and Meredith Pangrace’s unique home and terrace overlooking the lake were a constant source of conversation during the day, and when the program started shortly after 4 pm, their comments on supporting the LGBT community in its quest for equality were warmly received.

They were followed by Cimperman and Romanoff, who brought bouquets of flowers for the board of directors, Stettin and Pangrace and other dignitaries, including Councilor Michael Polensek, in whose ward the affair took place.

Afterwards, Cimperman took control of the afternoon, presiding over the live auction. In a mere four items, he brought in $11,700.

One of the prizes in the live auction was a gourmet cooking class with Sferra.

The other three all involved travel--a trip to Arizona with a week’s stay in a house next to executive director Sue Doerfer’s parents, a trip to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, and a jaunt to New York City to see David Letterman and more.

“The 20th garden party was the best yet!” said Doerfer afterwards. “The beautiful afternoon was filled with sunshine and support for the LGBT community center.”

Zaller was also impressed that, although ticket prices stayed the same as last year, attendance increased.

In all, the event raised around $30,000 for the Cleveland LGBT Center and its programs for youth, seniors, financial planning, health and other issues.




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