SunServe has new faces it hopes will usher in a new day at the organization.
This week they announced Tony Lima as the new executive director and Dr. Todd Tedrow as board chairman.
Dr. Tedrow is a licensed clinical social worker and professor at Barry University.
It’s Lima’s hiring that’s raising some eyebrows. He once was executive director of Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE), but was fired in 2019. During SAVE’s Champions of Equality Gala, he praised several youths who were accused of a homophobic attack after Miami Beach Pride a year earlier. He went so far as to say they were wrongly accused. Three years later, the case is still winding its way through the court system. Lima told SFGN how that moment affected him professionally and personally. “My time ended at SAVE in an unfortunate way, but I’ve grown and learned so much from the experience and I never hid from any criticism. I have apologized for my mistake. Now years have gone by and my record speaks for itself since my departure from SAVE. I have continued to pursue equal rights with dedication and passion for our LGBTQ+ community, especially for the transgender community and our most marginalized. I got up, dusted myself off and have moved on to continue my mission as an LGBTQ advocate.”
Terry Dyer, SunServe’s director of development, says this was an extensive search, and Lima was reviewed by a cross-section of South Florida’s LGBT community leaders. “He earned this support by his reflective and restorative approach. His work with SAVE, in total, was impressive. When viewed with the broadest lens, Tony’s long history of positive advocacy for the community solidified the decision to hire him as the executive director.”
Lima replaces acting Executive Director Gary Hensley, who has been with SunServe for years and will continue on with the organization.
Over the last year or so, SunServe has been working to grow its presence in the community. As recently as 2019, their only major public event was the Florida AIDS Walk. Under Hensley, they have strived to be more visible, more often. That includes Bingo! nights at bars on Wilton Drive, an interactive Murder-Mystery event, and more. The goal isn’t just to raise money, it’s about raising awareness. “From its programs to its dedicated and passionate staff, this is an organization that I absolutely want to be a part of and help take to the next level,” Lima said.
SunServe’s mission is “...to provide critical life assistance and professional mental health services with an emphasis on economically disadvantaged, marginalized youth, adults and seniors in the greater South Florida metropolitan area.” Their programs include help with substance abuse and addiction, housing insecurity, mental health counseling, and assisting the trans community.
“More than 80% of the people coming to SunServe for services and support are people of color and as a Cuban-American, son of immigrants, I am thrilled for this opportunity and the chance to center the voices and needs of the most marginalized in our LGBTQ+ community,” Lima said.