Julian’s Fountain of Youth cut its ribbon last week in Fort Lauderdale.
The new organization attracted a little more than 50 people on a cool Wednesday evening. Its founder, Julian Cavazos, showed off his new office and provided food and beverages to invited guests.
“I’m very happy for Julian to see his dreams become reality,” said David Levison, who attended the ribbon cutting with his husband, John Melecio Davila. “And I’m really excited that we get to help these kids and maybe make a difference in some lives.”
Levison and Cavazos are partners at Elan 16Forty a fitness business on Sunrise Blvd. To open his new non-profit venture, Cavazos chose the Sanctuary Church on North Federal Highway. Julian’s Fountain of Youth intends to quench “LGBT youth’s thirst for acceptance, knowledge and betterment,” reads a press release.
Cavazos is a Fort Lauderdale resident, U.S. Navy veteran, and community activist who has organized events such as “Reverse Quinceanera” and “Bunnies on the Drive.” Creating Julian’s Fountain of Youth, Cavazos said, was inspired by experiential learning courses 11 years ago.
“It truly changed my life,” he said.
The Sanctuary Church, pastored by Dwanye Black, is a historic site marveled for its mid twentieth century design. A brochure for the church describes it as a “widely diverse congregation, covering a variety of social and economic groups.”
“We include and welcome people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, orientation, and family arrangements,” the brochure reads.
Cavazos’ office is in a building adjacent to the church’s main sanctuary. At last week’s ribbon cutting, supporters crowded into the office where an outline of the youth program was presented.
Experiential learning courses, Cavazos said will be offered to LGBT youth at no cost. Julian’s Fountain of Youth will support LGBT youth in courses and camps with like minded peers, Cavazos said.
“Quenching the LGBT youth’s thirst for acceptance, knowledge and betterment,” Cavazos said is the organization’s tag line.
Julian’s Fountain of Youth’s core objective is to host a six-day experiential learning retreat locally, monthly teen meet and greet with learning component and social setting and weekly dance and health and wellness classes. The goal is to bring support for a difficult stage of life, Cavazos said.
“As we all know, it’s tough being LGBTQ as a teenager,” Cavazos said over a microphone to an audience inside the church’s banquet hall. “Those are some tough times.”
Cavazos went on to thank Pastor Black for facilitating his dream, recognizing it was the same space that launched his Reverse Quinceanera seven years ago. Overlooking the Middle River, the Sanctuary Church was first constructed in 1961 as the Second Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) of Fort Lauderdale.
Coleman Prewitt attended the ribbon cutting with his husband Mark Conagham. Prewitt, an attorney and Fort Lauderdale resident for 17 years, said he was glad to support Julian’s Fountain of Youth.
“The world needs more Julians,” Prewitt said.
Prewitt said Cavazos is a “great asset for the community” and expects a solid organization will be built to serve children that are “often neglected.”
“Julian is very passionate about helping kids and putting together a top notch program,” Prewitt said.
Julian’s Fountain of Youth almost didn’t get off the ground. Cavazos revealed he spent much of last year in the hospital recovering from open heart surgery. The recent health battle gave him an incentive to start the organization. It was while recovering from surgery that Cavazos said he became determined to make a difference.
“I’m laying in that bed and all I’m thinking is ‘Oh hell, I’m going to die and didn’t do what I said I was going to do,” he said. “I didn’t leave a legacy and I really haven’t done anything to change the world. I was very upset with myself so I made a commitment that I was going to do this.”
In the process, Cavazos said, a sustainable business is being created for LGBTQ youth and mentors.
Cavazos said the show of support at last week’s ribbon cutting was satisfying.
“I was really happy,” he said. “There was four other events happening the same night and so we were truly blessed to have so many people present.”
More Info: Julian’s Fountain of Youth, 1400 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304.