Award recipients glowed with pride for the activism they inspired and the progress they made at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce Seventh Anniversary and Business Excellence Awards on Wednesday.
The event at the Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas included the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to longtime gay couple and activists Jack Evans and George Harris. Most recently they created Dallas Way, a group dedicated to recording Dallas’ LGBT history.
Harris commended the chamber for its progress and expressed the honor of the award before Evans spoke briefly about how far the chamber has come from a 1992 meeting with 19 people to a room full of hundreds of people at an awards dinner.
“You guys out there, you guys are the ones that are going to be able to take us to the next 20 years,” Evans said. “Take advantage of this organization not only for yourselves, but for the community and for Dallas.”
Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda highlighted the success of the chamber recently, mentioning the third award the chamber has received from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The Excellence is Community Impact Award was accepted in August and recognized the economic impact of traveling and tourism, he said.
A new chamber app, Gay DFW to go, will soon allow all smartphone users to find chamber-member businesses that are near them with a GPS function, Vedda announced. The app will also allow members to post deals and specials for their businesses.
The website also changed to a new platform for member management to provide the members with best services in technology.
“Both this technology and the mobile app are things that no other GLBT chamber in his country is doing,” Vedda said.
AT&T received the Corporate Ally Award for the company’s acceptance and support of diversity in the work environment and the community.
Travis Gasper was awarded the Emerging Leader Award for his work with AIDS Interfaith Network, Equality Texas and Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. He thanked his friends and family for coming to the event, especially his mother who came from Colorado.
Member Service Award recipient Debbie Hoff addressed the audience’s unspoken question about why a retired straight woman would give more than 100 hours in-office volunteer work when she accepted the award. She said once LGBT rights became an issue of civil rights, she wanted to get more involved and be more informed, giving her time to support the chamber and advancement of LGBT business people.
“I give a little time and hopefully make a little difference,” she said.
The ExtrAA Mile Award was awarded to former Dallas Councilman Chris Luna for his work with raising money for AIDS awareness and time spent on several boards for the LGBT community. While on the council, he helped Dallas police hire gays and lesbians and add an LGBT nondiscrimination protection for city employees.
Business of the Year was given to the UPS Store owned by Jamie Sloan and Rick Adams. The award highlighted the growth of the business, which doubled its gross venue over the last year, as well as the amount of community service the company’s employees partake in regularly.
Dentist Kevin Terrell took home the Business Person of the Year for his personal touch in his work with patients and his current work on the Black Tie Dinner board. He thanked the chamber for the recognition and his family for their support.
The dinner also recognized the chamber’s three scholarship recipients for the Leadership Education and Advocacy Program. Hoping to beat the $7,000 raised last year for the scholarship fund, encouragement at the dinner helped raise $8,500 by the evening’s end.