Benefactor Donates Thousands to Utah Gay and Lesbian Center

Benefactor Donates Thousands to Utah Gay and Lesbian Center

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A prominent Utah gay and lesbian activist and philanthropist has agreed to match $100,000 in funds to help resuscitate a financially struggling activity center for the state's gay and lesbian community.

The pledge from Park City resident Beano Solomon at a fund-raising breakfast Wednesday is the largest individual donation the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Utah has received in its 32-year history.

The Salt Lake-based facility serves as a meeting place for about 30 different groups, including youth and adults. It also organizes the annual Utah Pride Festival in downtown Salt Lake.

The center has been making a steady recovery from financial woes that had cast a pall of gloom over its future in December. A Christmas fund-raising drive brought in about $43,000 and, not including Wednesday's fund-raiser, another $61,000 has been raised since Jan. 1.

The center's coffee shop has closed, but no other programs have been cut. Executive Director Valerie Larabee said the facility is on track to meeting its annual $476,750 operating cost.

"We're actually adding programs," she said.

Those include the center's first Winter Festival, an educational and recreational event that will feature a Valentine's Ball. Plans are also in the works to start a crisis hot line, Larabee said.

A new GLBT Liaison Committee -- started by Salt Lake Police Capt. Kyle Jones, whose son is gay -- is spearheading an effort to promote healthy self expression among gay men arrested for having sex in public. The program has reduced recidivism to about 1 percent, Jones said.

For her part, Solomon has said she will double her match of new donations raised at Wednesday's fund-raiser. Larabee said preliminary numbers show $48,783 had been raised, with $38,763 in new donations.

Solomon, who isn't gay but has a gay daughter, said her generosity has been motivated by wrenching tales of silence and isolation.

"My daughter didn't go through that," Solomon said. "I want other kids to experience what my daughter did."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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