SAN DIEGO — The San Diego LGBT Community Center celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday with a gala to honor the work the non-profit has done to support LGBTQ+ San Diegans.
Hosted at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel, hundreds attended the event to mark The Center’s decades of service with dance, live music, cocktails and a drag show. The event also served as a fundraiser to help support the organization’s work in the region for years to come.
“It’s huge, there’s not too many LGBT centers around the country that have come up to this anniversary,” Ian Johnson, senior director of development for The Center, told FOX 5 during the event. “We are one of the oldest and largest LGBT centers in the country and we’re excited to be at the 50 year mark, providing critical programs and services to the community.”
Founded in 1971, The Center currently provides direct services to over 80,000 people per year with their housing, immigration, behavioral health and sexual health programs.
The organization also works to further LGBTQ+ rights and empower communities of color through advocacy, civic engagement and education.
“We started off in the early ’70s as a phone and an answering machine in a utility closet, growing to be the size we are and providing the critical services we do,” Johnson said. “It’s a special thing to see the lives that are being transformed and touched by it.”
While there has been great strides towards equality for the LGBTQ+ community, advocates at The Center say there is still much more that needs to be done. Transgender and non-binary people, for instance, have faced increased attacks over the last few years on their right to access affirming healthcare across the U.S.
“I think back to the revolutionary vision of our founders who created one of the first spaces, 50 years ago, for LGBTQ people to gather and support one another,” said Cara Dessert, CEO of The Center. “Over these next 50 years, we will expand on the incredible legacy of building community power, to create a world where every LGBTQ person can live their full lives and thrive in our strong, beautiful community.”