A food pantry, where you arrive with your dignity, and you leave with your dignity.
Let’s go back in time to 1978. Can you picture Orlando in the late 70s? It’s hard not to imagine a hell of a party. However, at that time, the gay community did not have a way to come together. So, they came up with the then-radical idea of a gay hotline, and the number was 407-THE-GAYS. People would take turns answering the phone and sharing upcoming gay community events, thus creating safe, fun ways to come together. Then, in June of 1981, the initial cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States
The world was forever changed—and so did the needs of the gay community.
What is now called The LGBT+ Center—or commonly “The Center”—was given a far larger responsibility. In 1984, they opened a brick and mortar building and shifted their focus to HIV/AIDS testing and care. While we’re grateful that HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it once was thanks to medical advancements, Orlando still ranks as the number two city in the country for new HIV/AIDS cases.
Sometimes the good news is when bad things happen, there are kind and loving people there to help. Today, The Center remains the most-used HIV testing center in Orlando and the oldest LGBTQ center in Florida. In 2016, when The Pulse shooting simultaneously destroyed and brought Orlando together, then President Obama called The Center “ground zero for community healing.” George Wallace, former board member and current CEO, shared how he felt when he heard the tragic news. He said that he knew just where to go to both be supported and show support. When he arrived at The Center, the space was filled with people coming together in the most beautiful way. Wallace also expressed, “while it was a terrible event, it put a national spotlight on gun reform and LGBTQ rights.” In the most tragic of times, The Center became a place of hope and healing. Places and people like this have become imperative in supporting our community, helping us transform the world into the place we want to live.
The thing about The Center is they still answer their phones each day to address the many needs of the community. During the Covid pandemic, food insecurity became a clear issue. Many service industry and hospitality workers found themselves out of work. Even as things returned to normal, many people were unable to quickly recover from the financial devastation they experienced. Sensing the urgent need, The Center quickly pivoted and turned one of their spaces into The Pride Pantry. During an NPR interview about the pantry, regular Joseph Dudnik said, “This is a food pantry, where you arrive with your dignity, and you leave with your dignity. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the norm for those in need. The Center continues to provide food, along with cleaning, hygiene, and pet products to those who are experiencing homelessness. In addition, the place has become a haven for parents who need to feed their families. It’s incredible to know that as the needs of our community are constantly changing, there are people coming together to support each other.
“This is a food pantry, where you arrive with your dignity, and you leave with your dignity.”
-Pride Pantry regular Joseph Dudnik
There are different ways we each contribute, some of us have money and others have time. At Breyting Community Roaster, we want to make supporting critical causes like food insecurity as easy as possible. It’s as simple as changing the coffee you drink each morning. By purchasing an annual coffee subscription, you can help feed those in need, while enjoying delicious craft coffee. Each day you can wake up knowing you have already made a significant contribution—simply by changing the coffee you drink.
What other ways can you help The Center?
Donations are, of course, extremely helpful. Items can be dropped at Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at 946 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803. In addition, the organization appreciates unique items like gluten-free foods for those with health issues. Even small things, like condiments, can make items like canned tuna more usable.
Direct financial contributions make these life-changing programs possible. This article has merely touched on some of the critical work this organization is doing in our community. Please consider helping in any way you can by making a donation at their website.