Celebration to Honor Center, Community, Chili

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The Utah Pride Center will celebrate its second annual National Community Center Awareness Day next month, a day-long event to honor its programs, the power of community and a steaming bowl of chili.

The  celebration is held at Pride Centers around the country and is masterminded by CenterLink, a coalition of over 170 community centers for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The theme the group chose for this year’s festivities is “Building Our Community from the Center.” It’s an idea, said Utah Pride Center Media and Special Events Coordinator Michael Westley, that the Utah Pride Center is honoring in a unique way: through a service project for another organization in the Marmalade District where it calls home.

On Sept. 15, Center staff volunteers will hold an equipment drive for the West Capitol Boys & Girls Club, which provides adult mentors, recreational activities and a safe environment for youth. The Center will collect school supplies (including backpacks), basketballs, soccer balls and benches for the club’s field. To raise money, it will solicit donations from neighborhood residents and businesses.

“After looking around the neighborhood, we felt that we would be best served with our time and energy and resources by teaming up with another organization that’s already established and has a shared commitment to our values” in helping youth, said Westley of the club. “This is primarily about the Pride Center rallying the support of our neighborhood behind the Boys & Girls Club that services our neighborhood.”

Although such a project is something of a departure for the Pride Center, Westley said that helping a neighborhood organization is part and parcel of the Center’s commitment to “be a good neighbor.”

“We believe to have a good neighbor you have to be a good neighbor,” he said. “And part of the importance of community centers is knowing your community, which means knowing your neighborhood. We believe that strengthening and supporting our allied communities is good for everyone.”

The equipment drive will take place during the morning of Sept. 15. The evening, however, will be reserved for activities specifically for the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and its allies. From 4–8 p.m., the Center will host an open house and a fair to introduce many of its programs to the public. It will also hold its second annual chili cookout, a friendly culinary competition between a number of local gay and transgender rights groups and community organizations. So far, Equality Utah, the Human Rights Education Center of Utah, PFLALG, the Utah AIDS Foundation, the People With AIDS Coalition of Utah, the Center itself and its in house bistro Café Marmalade have signed up to bring their own home-cooked masterpieces.

To sponsor a sense of “fun community building” (and, perhaps, friendly rivalry), the chefs will cook their chili together the night before the big day and serve them up for $3 a bowl ($6 for bread bowl, corn muffin, chili and a drink). Vegans and vegetarians don’t need to worry either – there will be such options available. Just like last year, the money raised during the cook-off will all go to the organization that wins.

Overall, Westley said that the day’s purpose is to encourage people of all sexual orientations to “come and see every inch of the center, how we use it and what we use it for.”

“We’ll be doing what we’re [always] tying to do which is bring people together,” he said.

For updates, watch utahpridecenter.org.

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