Good News Newsletter
The Center Orlando
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.
You Can Change the Lives of These Teens
“No matter what your life is like now, you can change that. You can achieve your dreams if you stick with them. Some of these kids are homeless, and we show them there is another life out there.”
-Will Covington, So You Want Your Name in Lights
Will Covington has played alongside many well-known musicians. The drummer's accolades include winning a Grammy award collaborating on one of B.B. King's albums. His wife and partner, Gwen Covington, earned her Master's in Business and spent years producing and performing music. Before their respective success, these musicians grew up in underserved communities. They saw firsthand the struggles kids experience and the dangerous implications it can cause. These hardships—and a love for music—led them to create the annual six-week summer camp, So You Want Your Name In Lights.
They are using the magnetism of music to draw teens down a healthier path—one filled with knowledge, inspiration, and empowerment. This youth mentoring program aims to empower 40 underserved teens to help them learn financial literacy, entrepreneurship, songwriting, music production, health and wellness, and other essential life skills. For example, they've enlisted the help of local bankers to conduct financial literacy workshops to teach teens money management and budgeting. Gwen says she’s also seen teens make remarkable progress in their songwriting course, which teaches them how to think critically and work together. The program also presents several collaborative partner opportunities, including an option for students to write and publish their own books. Over the years, they have seen students blossom into business owners and become true assets to the community.
It costs $50,000 per summer to operate this dynamic, critical program. This mentorship program is fully scholarship-based, which allows those most in need to participate. Some of these teens are homeless, and others struggle during the summer without the school’s lunch programs helping nourish them. At So You Want Your Name In Lights, they are fed and educated to become the best versions of themselves.
How can you help empower these underserved teens? By merely switching out your coffee, you could forever change their lives. With your support, you can help shift these teens' trajectories to become positive contributors to our society. Twenty percent of each coffee purchase you make goes directly to the scholarship fund for these deserving students. You + coffee = change.
What other ways can you help?
You can also make a cash donation to this important cause or share your time volunteering with these amazing teens. To learn more, go to www.nameinlights.org.
We Can Help Save the Manatees
“With no known natural predators and lacking in aggression, for me, manatees symbolize the peace and tranquility I wish to see more of in the world.”
-Tonya Higgins, Save the Manatee Club
It’s incredible what can happen when people come together with the desire to make a difference. In 1980, Jimmy Buffet spoke with Florida Governor Bob Graham backstage at one of his concerts about the need to protect manatees and their habitat. From that one conversation, the grassroots organization Save the Manatee Club was born.
For many of us, our love and awareness of these majestic creatures is due to this organization's significant advocacy and education programs. They have also contributed decades-long research efforts for manatee rescue, rehabilitation, and release back into the wild. Their work has helped ensure more manatees roam the waters now than 40 years ago. In fact, this year Blue Springs State Park, the winter home for many Indian River manatees, counted more than 700 manatees, a record number. That is something to celebrate!
Still, there is much more work to be done. Now is a critical time to help as manatees on the east coast of Florida are suffering from malnourishment due to a massive loss of their primary food source, seagrass. As a result, it's anticipated more manatees than usual will need rescuing this winter.
The good news is we can help save the manatees!
If you’re a coffee lover and want to support Save the Manatee Club, then consider switching your coffee to Breyting. Then, each day you can wake up knowing you’ve already made a significant contribution just by changing the coffee you drink. It’s also really delicious!
What other ways can you help?
1. Rethink how you fertilize your yard. The most impactful and affordable way is to change how you fertilize your lawn. The cumulated run-off of fertilizers is causing seagrass to die off, which is the manatee's primary food source. This fertilizer run-off is also the cause of nearby red tide that devastates so many other animals and our coastal economies. Consider educating your neighbors, and, if possible, influencing the local industry to do the same. It’s such a simple thing to change if we work together to educate our community. It’s empowering to know we can easily make a positive impact on our environment, starting right in our own backyard. Please either avoid fertilizing or follow the guidelines of the IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program. To learn more about seagrass loss due to run-off, read this Save the Manatee Club article.
2. Adopt A Manatee.
3. Donate to Save the Manatee Club.
4. Purchase products online at The Manatee Store.
Fred Schneider of The B-52’s Creates a Coffee for Causes
Hey, everyone! If you haven’t heard, I’ve co-founded Breyting® Community Roaster in DeLand, Florida. Breyting Coffee is designed to do one thing well: coffee fundraising.
Before beginning my lifelong music career, I planned on becoming a conservationist, and my interest in preserving wild spaces and helping endangered species has never waned. So, I co-created Breyting’s program to harness the support of vast amounts of coffee drinkers into a fundraising system for organizations, and people pushing for a better society. It’s exciting to be part of Breyting’s program—which enables charities and progressive organizations to raise money in an easy way, with delicious coffee as a bonus.
You can make a difference in your community each day by changing the coffee you drink to Breyting Coffee. Simply go to www.communityroaster.com and select the cause you want to support from the directory. After purchasing your coffee, delicious craft roasted coffee will arrive at your door, and a 20 percent contribution is sent to the nonprofit you selected. You + coffee = change.
Breyting has an ever-growing list of nonprofits and causes you can support. To bring awareness to some critical organizations, I’ve selected three of my favorite Florida causes to share with the community. This list includes Save the Manatee Club, LGBT+ Center Orlando, and So You Want Your Name In Lights. Plus, our up-and-coming Good News Newsletter will share the positive impacts these organizations make in our community.
Please consider supporting these organizations in any way that makes sense for you. If you love good coffee as much as I do, Breyting coffee may just be the perfect way for you to make a positive change in your community!