By Greg Hernandez
Capital Campaign donors saw their dreams come true as they celebrated the opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus.
More than 300 donors gathered on the evening of April 6 for guided tours, music, dinner, heartfelt speeches, and a joyous champagne toast to the new 180,000-square-foot Campus that brings together a multitude of youth and senior services and serves as the Center’s new administrative headquarters.
“I’m so proud to have played a part in this historic accomplishment,” lead donor Rosenstein said as she addressed a crowd, which included Center CEO Lorri L. Jean, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, philanthropist Ariadne Getty, tennis legend Billie Jean King and her partner Ilana Kloss, and Center board members and staff. “For 50 years the Center has been unafraid to dream, unafraid to accept the challenge of creating a world where everybody has the opportunity to be who they are.”
Rosenstein and her family foundations donated $8 million to the Campus that bears her name—the largest gift by a living donor to an LGBT organization.
In a moving speech, Jean described Rosenstein as “a champion to all of us” and said: “I want to thank you for your courage, leadership, and relentless determination to help the Center do more for the most vulnerable in our community.”
David Bailey, chair of the Capital Campaign and co-chair of the Center’s Board of Directors, announced at the party that approximately $67 million had been raised, which means the Campus opened its doors mortgage free.
“Thank you for your generosity, your belief in us, and for caring about our youth and seniors,” Bailey told the crowd.
The total cost of the Campus will be $141 million which includes Phase II, housing for seniors and youth scheduled to open in 2020.
The Campus includes 100 beds for homeless youth, the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center, Youth Center, and The Ariadne Getty Foundation Youth Academy. It also includes a professional kitchen where the Center’s new Culinary Arts program will be housed.
“I am just so honored and humbled to have participated in this history-making process, which is the culmination of 11 years of blood, sweat, and love that went into building this Campus,” Ryu said. “This is what the future and present of what social responsibility and community engagement is all about.”
The Campus opening took place during the Center’s 50th anniversary year. Jean paid tribute to the Center’s founders, who were visionaries in the LGBT movement and became the Center’s founding board members: Martin Field, June Herrie, James L. Kepner, Maurice Kight, John Platania, and Lee Hansen Sisson. They are pictured, along with founding volunteer executive director Don Killhefner, on the history wall inside of Campus’ Pride Hall.
“I’m sure that they could never have imagined that the organization they so lovingly nurtured into life would one day have the resources and the ability to create a Campus such as this,” Jean said. “Fifty years ago, this was unfathomable. No one then would ever have imagined an LGBT organization creating a Campus like this. People can scarcely imagine it now. Working with all of you to help realize this dream is my life’s greatest honor. Thank you for that privilege.”
Before guests raised their glasses for a champagne toast, Jean told the crowd that the Campus “will stand as a powerful testament to the decades of our community’s fortitude, resilience and optimism and to a future of self-determination, indestructability, and success.”
From among the more than 350 capital campaign donors came a record-breaking 15 gifts of $1 million or more. Prior to the Campus’ Capital Campaign, no living donor had made a gift or pledge to the Center of $1 million or more. The first to do so were Loren Ostrow and Brian Newkirk.
Newkirk, who first came to the Center as a homeless youth, held back tears as he spoke about the new Campus.
“To come full circle with this fills my heart with so much light. I feel honored to be part of this family tonight. I’m just overwhelmed at how many people are going to be helped by this,” he said. “We’re the ones who are going to take care of each other. We’re the ones who step up—our chosen families.”
King and Kloss, who last year became part owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, are longtime friends of Rosenstein and were eager to have a tour of the Campus they had long been hearing about.
“It’s amazing to be here and actually see the facility and see that it takes up basically a square block in Los Angeles,” observed King. “What’s important is it’s going to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to thank everyone who has contributed either through blood, sweat and tears, through leadership, and every single person who invested in it financially.”
She added: “Older people are going to be mixing with the younger people which I think is really good. Older people have perspective and can help the younger ones. The younger ones keep us vibrant and ready to go.”
“To see it now, the inclusiveness of it, is pretty mind-boggling,” Center Board Member Susan Feniger said. “It’s just so gorgeous and welcoming. I love that it’s across from The Village and that this whole block is going to feel like it’s just ours. It’s quite special.”
“You really can see the excitement in people’s eyes,” added Center Board Member Karim Abay. “It is going to be helping so many people. There’s so many great things that are going to be happening here, it’s exciting to see and to be a part of.”
Donor Ernest Schmider described the evening as “dreamlike.”
“I never imagined in my lifetime I would see a monument to tolerance and unity—especially in the current (political) environment,” he said. “This place has gravity and it has longevity built into it. Bad politicians will come and go, but this place will persevere. It will stand for the pride and dignity of our youth and our seniors and everybody in between.”