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September 10 , 2010

Garden Party grows in Hunting Valley

Zaller, Prevel announce resignations at event

Hunting Valley, Ohio--The Cleveland LGBT Center Garden Party featured a bit of everything, moving from the Shore Acres neighborhood of Cleveland out into the ritzy rural suburb of Hunting Valley.

Higher attendance and a celebrity appearance softened the blow when, later in the afternoon, two center staff members announced their departures.

This year�s fundraiser was held August 29 at the home of Bill Edwards and Ron Bailey, with its own private lake and a small flotilla of lesbian geese--Helen, Gertrude and Alice.

Upon handing over their cars to the valet service, guests were presented with a choice of proseco, an Italian sparkling wine with fresh berries in it, or refreshing iced tea.

Once inside the party, two large guest tents provided views of the lake, one with a balcony and the other with lounge furniture strewn throughout.

The live auction, with Cleveland Ward 3 councilor Joe Cimperman returning as auctioneer, and the silent auction raised almost $17,000. The silent auction had twice as many offerings as last year.

It was not just the auctions that grew. This year�s event saw 350 attendees, a sharp increase from 200 last year. The host committee also increased over last year. This year�s incarnation brought in over $60,000 in total.

Throughout the day, an extravagant feast by Chef Bob Sferra met partygoers� every need, with passed canap�s, a poolside buffet and rich desserts. Any attempt to enumerate the dishes on the menu would border on sadism for those who did not attend the party.

The Jacob Wynne Quartet, a jazz band, entertained during the festive afternoon, taking a break to allow the surprise guest, actor Leslie Jordan, to regale the audience for an hour.

Mary Zaller, development director of the Cleveland LGBT Center and one of the organizers of the Garden Party, noted, �He was so good. He was genuine, he was touching and moving. He made me cry twice.�

After Jordan left the stage, center president Scott Morgan introduced the board, and executive director Jan Cline did the same with the staff.

Then came perhaps the only truly sad moment in 21 years of Garden Parties.

Zaller and her partner, Mary Prevel, who handles data entry for the center, announced their resignations. Zaller has been at the center for nearly eight years, Prevel as long in a volunteer capacity and almost four years as a staff member.

�It�s a good time,� Zaller said in an interview on September 8. �A week from today is our last day, mine and Mary�s both.�

The couple will spend time developing their healthy living business, Elements of Health. Last year, their sales of Shaklee vitamins alone equaled their combined salaries from the center, so they are eager to see to what extent they can build the business when they have time to pay it the proper attention.

Zaller began her tenure on January 31, 2003, and she and Prevel have worked every Garden Party since. Prevel volunteered at the center before coming on as a staff member.

�She was the perfect person to come work there since she knew everything we did,� Zaller said.

Prevel helped Zaller through two stints as interim executive director, first with Jack Hart after David Smith left in 2003, and then at the beginning of this year after Sue Doerfer resigned, until new director Jan Cline was acclimated.

�It was really important that she was there as a back-up to me and the center in so many ways,� Zaller said, noting that she feels she does not need to worry about the center, despite the chilly economic climate.

�It just felt like a really good time to move on,� she noted. �The center�s in a really good place with a very competent executive director at the helm. I�ve cared about the center for so long, and I wanted to leave it in good hands.�

�With Jan, I feel that it is in good hands,� she continued, noting that the board is very engaged as well.

Cline has brought in more funding, and both Zaller and Prevel�s positions will be revamped with additional responsibilities and made into full-time positions.

�I�m so sorry to see them go because they�ve been hugely valuable to the center for a long time,� Cline said. �Mary Zaller has been working in development pretty much since I left.�

Cline was the associate director under Linda Malicki. After her resignation in 2002, the board hired Smith to helm the organization.

�It�s a mixed thing, since it�s an opportunity for the center to take those two part-time positions, make them full-time and move forward,� he continued. �They�re both going to be slightly different.�

Job announcements will be posted by the end of the week, and Cline expects to have the positions filled by the end of the month. Zaller and Prevel will both return to train their successors.

Their farewell party will be on September 15 from 6-8 pm, coinciding with an open house celebrating National LGBT Center Awareness Day. In its second year, the event�s tagline is, Cline believes, very relevant.

�It�s �Building Community from the Center,� and we�ve been doing that since 1975,� he said, noting that there will be an entire week of events in October celebrating the center�s 35th anniversary, in addition to more groups and programs starting in the fall.

Zaller wanted to make it clear, though, that the Garden Party hosts were also a source of strength for the center over the last year, a difficult economic time for non-profits across the board.

�Ron and Bill changed the landscape of the center in 2010,� she said. �They�ve been really instrumental in our stability this year, and it�s because they believe really strongly in the work of LGBT centers.�

She noted that they were huge supporters of the New York LGBT center when they lived there, and continue to help it now that they have moved to Ohio.

For more information about the Cleveland LGBT Center and its upcoming events, go to www.lgbtcleveland.org.

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