|PFLAG Atlanta goes ‘Out with the Stars’|
|Written by Ryan Watkins|
|Friday, 08 June 2012 00:00|
Atlanta’s chapter of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians & Gays will host its first-ever “Out with the Stars” awards dinner on Saturday, June 23, to honor educators, students, parents and nonprofits that have advocated acceptance and tolerance for gays and lesbians in Atlanta.
“This event is our chance to say ‘thank you’ to them for all they do,” said Conal Charles, co-president of PFLAG Atlanta.
The gala at Labella at Lambert Place will double as a fundraiser for PFLAG Atlanta, which celebrates its 26th year of service to the community this year. PFLAG Atlanta was founded in 1986 to give parents of LGBT children a network of support.
The organization offers support meetings, education programs and regularly features guest speakers. PFLAG Atlanta meets at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta from 7-9 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, as well as the third Sunday of each month from 2:45 – 5 p.m. at First Metropolitan Community Church.
Charles said PFLAG’s mission of acceptance differs from other national LGBT organizations but is equally, if not more, important.
“HRC and other advocacy organizations do a great job of helping change the law; PFLAG’s job is to help change hearts,” Charles said. “We do this by being visible in our communities as straight parents, teachers, friends, family and co-workers who love and fully support our LGBT sons, daughters and friends.”
The June 23 dinner will give PFLAG a chance to honor a diverse group.
“What I love about PFLAG is that it’s such a broad cross-section – LGBT people, their parents, grandparents, siblings and friends from all over the metro area. It truly is a family-friendly and inclusive celebration,” Charles said.
Honorees include Jeff and Patti Ellis, creators of FamilyAcceptance.com. On their website, the couple shares their story of coming to terms with their son’s sexual orientation while dealing with their religious faith.
The Ellis website features resources for parents whose children have recently come out. In addition to their personal story, they also feature links to books, videos and even the PFLAG website.
PFLAG will honor the couple with the “Outstanding Work as a Parent” award.
Em Elliot will be recognized for her work with Georgia Equality and the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition with the “Outstanding Work as an Educator” award.
Elliot said she was excited to even be recognized, much less win.
“I was definitely very surprised and very honored,” Elliot said. “I was not expecting it at all.”
Elliot said she plans to use her award speech as an opportunity to highlight the work of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and Georgia Equality.
“I really look at this award, not as one for an individual, but one for the entire safe schools movement,” Elliot said.
She added that she was most looking forward to her parents attending the dinner.
“They have vague ideas of what I do,” Elliot said. “They know I’m an activist. This will be a cool opportunity for them to see the fruits of my labor, so-to-speak.”
Jessica Maslanka, an organizer of the 2012 Georgia GSA Youth Summit and one of the youth behind JustUsATL, will receive the “Outstanding Work as a Student” award.
“I love meeting new people and getting insight from them,” Maslanka said. “I’m sure we can all take from each other’s experiences.”
Maslanka added that she’s been working on creating a Gay/Straight Alliance at her school and helped coordinate her school’s participation in this year’s Day of Silence.
The Ben Marion Institute for Social Justice will receive the “Outstanding Work as a Nonprofit” award for its work in “promoting a culture of social justice” in Atlanta.
The organization works with local schools, businesses, nonprofits and other groups teaching conflict resolution while raising awareness about issues like heterosexism and homophobia in the workplace.
Dale and Mary Lynn Merkle will be honored with a special PFLAG achievement award. They are long-time supporters of the organization.
Silent auction prizes
In addition to a silent auction that features items ranging from two round-trip Southwest Airline tickets to rock climbing lessons, there will also be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a fully catered dinner provided by Rustic Gourmet.
The awards presentation, speeches and raffle will follow the dinner. Participants are suggested to wear cocktail attire.
Tickets to the gala are $45 before June 11 (use promo code EARLYBIRD) but will jump to $55 after. Anyone over age 13 is invited, but minors must be accompanied by an adult, Charles said.
Organizers expect the event to draw around 150 guests.
Money from the event will go toward PFLAG’s Safe Schools and the Straight for Equality programs and will be used for conference fees, outreach and publicity.
Top photo: Jeff and Patti Ellis (pictured) will be honored with the Outstanding Work as a Parent award (courtesy photo)
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