Here are SFGN's "Best of 2017" winners in the groups category in Broward County.
Best Business Group
Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Getting connected to the right business people is easier done with a membership to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
The organization, launched in 2011, exists to promote LGBT and allied businesses throughout greater Fort Lauderdale.
“We are thrilled to be voted best business group for 2017,” said President and CEO Keith Blackburn.
The GFLGLCC is partnered with a long list of government and private agencies, globally recognized hospitality brands, banks, hospitals, investment groups and health care providers. The chamber hosts monthly mixers and publishes an annual gay travel guide.
There are different levels of GFLGLCC membership. Individual membership starts at $295. Levels extend to premier ($550), executive ($1,500) and partnerships ($2,500). Benefits increase with each level. Non-profits (501c3) can join for $275.
Being a member gives you access to networking events, referrals, informative webinars, economic opportunities, advocacy organizations and community expos. This is the second year in a row GFLGLCC was voted best business group by SFGN readers.
Group For Seniors
Coffee & Conversation @ Pride Center
Every Tuesday morning, The Pride Center hosts Coffee & Conversation — the largest single gathering of LGBT seniors in the United States. Yes: the country.
Senior Services Coordinator Bruce Williams runs the weekly show. When the Center started concentrating on the needs of seniors, attendance shot up. He started going to the weekly gatherings a couple years ago when it had a couple dozen attendees. Now it’s normal to see a couple hundred during the season.
Sometimes group discussions go over healthcare, financial planning, housing, and other age-related topics. Many times, LGBT seniors get unfair treatment when it comes to assisted living, home healthcare, and other looming expenses that come with getting older.
Coffee & Conversation gives seniors the opportunity to learn about their benefits, options, and rights. And, of course, it gives them time to chat with their friends and neighbors. The Pride Center also hosts the annual Senior Health Expo, which sells out exhibitor spots every year and brings in hundreds of seniors, their relatives, and caretakers. It’s free for attendees, just like Coffee & Conversation is weekly.
Best Group For Women
Women in Network (WIN)
For 30 years, Women In Network has been bringing together the Fort Lauderdale LGBT community. It’s one of the longest-running lesbian organizations in the state, which means it shouldn’t come as a shock that they’ve won this award every year since our Best Of’s started in 2011.
The community organization hosts professional get-togethers as well as social and recreational events. On the first Wednesday of every month, there’s WIN First Wednesdays. Sometimes it’s a speaking engagement about retirement, sometimes it’s a theater night out. Earlier this year they hosted one at the Stonewall National Museum. The variety means you’re never bored and always learning something new. Many times you’re giving back to the community by simply being there. If they aren’t hosting an event, they’re co-hosting one, sometimes a few different ones, many times a month.
They also have huge advocacy and scholarship programs, as well as partnerships for discounts to shows, events, and purchases. The great news is that WIN is free to join for anyone who wants to — not just women.
Best Social Group
Bears of South Florida
Whether they’re shuffling into the local theater for a movie, jumping into the water for a pool party, stepping into their bowling shoes at a local bowling alley, or dancing atop their float during the Stonewall parade, the Bears of South Florida has plenty on their calendar.
Winner of the “Best Social Group” three times, Bears of South Florida promises “a fun time and good company” for its 1,400 members and those who want to add to its ranks.
The group uses that “fun time and good company” to raise about $5,000 annually for LGBT causes “and have a good time doing it,” says Harvey Shapiro, a member of the group’s board of directors.
But despite its name, Bears of South Florida says it “will strive for diversity and acceptance of any person who wishes to join. Membership within the club will consist of bears, cubs and those who wish to socialize with such persons . . . Equal acceptance within the group regardless of any physical characteristic will be the goal.”
Best Support Group
L.I.F.E. Program at Pride Center
Living with HIV is hard enough. The L.I.F.E. Program at The Pride Center gives those living with HIV healthy ways to boost well being and improve their quality of life.
The four and a half month program is free and open to the public. The program takes back the throne from SunServe’s Bereavement Group — 2016’s winner. L.I.F.E. tied in 2015.
L.I.F.E., Learning Immune Function Enhancement, brings together gay and bi men living with HIV to develop healthy living techniques, stress management, overcoming depression, and overall coping with HIV. It gives all participants the ability to share their stories and to know that they aren’t alone. It’s a safe space with a communal, not-confrontational group.
The program is offered twice a year, meeting on Tuesday evenings. The program is part of the PALS project, at The Pride Center at Equality Park.
Best Group for Trans People
Part of what TransSOCIAL does is organize information on the resources available to transgender individuals living in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. The organization also helps transgender individuals who have trouble paying for a legal name change.
But Morgan Mayfaire, a transgender man who founded TransSOCIAL with his wife, Ashley, said what makes TransSOCIAL a great organization and winner of “Best Group for Trans People” is its inclusivity. “We’re very open and accepting. We don’t have age restrictions. We’re also open to allies. It’s a very nice blend.”
Mayfaire says there are about 300 members on TransSOCIAL’s Facebook page and between 16 and 60 individuals who gather in person during meetings, depending on the day.
“I’ve been in a lot of groups and this one is one of the best, if not the best,” said Patricia Magnuson, a transgender female member. “It’s fantastic. Morgan and Ashley are great. It’s a good group. It’s a calm group . . . always upbeat.”