Making a better world, one step at a time

John Boeglin

John Boeglin repays the help he gets as a client at AOC by also being a volunteer at the agency

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
taffet@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — John Boeglin, first diagnosed with AIDS in 1989, has been a client of Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center off and on since 1991.

But Boeglin doesn’t just go to the center for help for himself; he helps others in turn by volunteering at AOC. And he has taken his volunteerism a step forward by looking for — and finding — ways to help the agency go a little more green.

“I have volunteered in different parts of AIDS Outreach, and I had volunteered in the food pantry for about four years when I started thinking that there was a real need for us to start incorporating recycling into all of our events,” Boeglin said.

So he took the initiative of coordinating with the city to get recycle bins at the agency and has been leading AOC’s recycling efforts in the three years since then.

“It’s not very profitable. But at least we are helping the environment. We can now take all the cardboard and plastic and aluminum that comes through here and recycle it, instead of having it all end up in a landfill somewhere,” he said.

He added, “I have always been cautious about my own carbon footprint, about the impact I have on the environment. I was always riding a bicycle everywhere. I didn’t even have a car until my father passed away.”

Boeglin has also been a big supporter of AOC’s annual AIDS Walk, both as a walker and as a volunteer who helps set up on the day of the event, and then take everything down and put it away when it’s over.

“I’m usually there from the first thing in the morning until that night when it’s all done,” he said. “And I have walked in the AIDS Walk for at least 10 years now.”

Boeglin said he volunteers with and walks in the AIDS Walk, now in its 19th year, because “it helps earn money to pay for the services that we need. And with all the cuts the government has made since 2000, that money has become a real necessity.

“This agency probably wouldn’t make it without the money from the AIDS Walk,” he continued. “Because of all the changes made by the previous administration [under President George W. Bush], people can’t even get on disability now. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to make it without the programs at AIDS Outreach Center.”

Boeglin said he first started doing volunteer work “primarily because there wasn’t a lot else to do. Those of us who were diagnosed in the 1980s and early ’90s, we found out we were sick and so we started planning for the end of our lives. Then all of a sudden, we realized we weren’t dying.

“So we tried to go back to work, but we either couldn’t get jobs at all, or we couldn’t get jobs that would actually pay the bills,” he said. “So we found ourselves sitting around our apartments with nothing to do. That’s how it happened with me. So I started volunteering.”

Boeglin said he volunteered with the Healing Wings program at JPS Hospital and then later at AIDS Outreach when the program moved. He has also volunteered with Q Cinema and has been involved with Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. He has been politically active as well, once getting a scholarship that allowed him to fly to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program.

He said he has lobbied the Texas Legislature on HIV and LGBT related issues, too.

“Sometimes, you can get a little burned out when you stay in one place, doing one thing for too long. So I avoid the burnout by going from one place to another,” Boeglin said. “After I had volunteered at the food pantry [at AOC] for several years, it started to get really difficult. When you start losing so many people, it gets hard. You come in and even though you know they’re gone, you keep looking for them, keep waiting to see them. It’s hard.”

That was one reason, he said, that he chose to work with Q Cinema. “I needed to do things that let me see more people that are affected by HIV instead only seeing people who are infected with HIV. I needed that change of pace,” he explained.

Boeglin has a lot of hobbies, too, that help keep him busy and healthy. He is a writer and an artist and works in wood crafting. He also likes to attend Scarborough Faire and sci-fi conventions, and will be volunteering at an upcoming convention here in North Texas.

Boeglin said his interest in sci-fi conventions grew out of a fascination with science and with space that began when he was a child and sat with his grandfather to watch as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

“Did you know that it was protease inhibitors developed during experiments on the space shuttle that led to the use of the ‘drug cocktails’ in the 1995 that have helped people with AIDS live better and longer?” Boeglin asks. “They were able to grow these protein crystals large enough in space with zero gravity to be able to see how they would affect how HIV is able to enter cells. And millions of us are alive today because of those experiments they did on the space shuttle in 1995.”

While some people may joke about the sci fi convention fans and the separate world they sometimes seem to live in, Boeglin sees a kind of nobility in that world that gives him hope for a better future in this one.

“The conventions and the fans, there’s a very, very good sense of community there, just like there is here at AIDS Outreach,” Boeglin said. “It makes me believe that someday that altruistic future [of the sci-fi world] may really someday come true, because people care enough to be here, to be at the AIDS Walk and participate in it — the ones who don’t have to be there, but are there anyway, and the ones who struggle to be there and make a difference. It gives me hope.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

AUDIO: Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos on gay Democrats

Dan Ramos on Stonewall Democrats, homosexuality by gharman

Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, has been doing a great job keeping us posted on the Dan Ramos situation. If you’ll remember, Ramos is the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party who recently compared gay Democrats to “termites” and the “fuckin’ Nazi Party.” Just today, the San Antonio Current posted some audio from the interview in which Ramos’ originally made his anti-gay comments — in response to Ramos’ allegations that the newspaper misrepresented what he said. Also, after the jump are several statements condemning Ramos forwarded by Graney over the last few days, including from state representatives, a Congressman, the San Antonio mayor and the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats.

—  John Wright

Walking to remember

FAMILY BUSINESS | One reason Kelly Smith works at the Tommy’s Hamburgers on Camp Bowie, owned by her parents, is that her job there gives her plenty of time to volunteer with AIDS Outreach Center. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

For Kelly Smith, volunteering at AOC and participating in the AIDS Walk is a family affair — in more ways than 1

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

When she was growing up, Kelly Smith always thought of her uncle, Brad, as more of a brother and friend than an uncle.

“He was my dad’s only brother. He was a chef, a great cook, and when my parents opened up Tommy’s Hamburgers, he helped them out a lot,” Smith said. “He was only 10 years older than me, and I grew up hanging out with him and his friends.”

But then AIDS struck, Kelly said, “and I lost Brad. I’ve lost his partner, and I’ve lost all of his friends but one. It was devastating.”

But before he died in 1994, Brad Smith introduced his niece to Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center and the agency’s annual AIDS Walk. In the years since, the bond between Kelly and that agency has grown ever stronger, giving her an opportunity, she said, to honor the memories of her uncle and friends by helping those still living with HIV.

“I did the AIDS Walk with Brad in 1992 and 1993 before he died in 1994. Then by the mid-90s, I started getting more involved. I became a team captain and started getting other people to walk with me.”

But Kelly didn’t limit her involvement to the AIDS Walk: She joined the center’s board of directors three years ago and is now vice president of the board.

Still, the AIDS Walk holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s my passion. It’s my calling. I truly love it,” she said. “This year is my fourth year to be co-chair of the walk, and it’s going to be the best one ever.

READY, SET WALK | Participants in the 2011 AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk get ready to set out from the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on the 5K course. This year, the walk moves back to its roots in Trinity Park. This is Kelly Smith’s fourth year as AIDS Walk co-chair.

“My partner, Holly Edwards, works for Luke’s Locker, and now Luke’s has come on as a walk sponsor. It’s always so much fun to be part of the walk, but it’s even better now because this is something that we do together,” Kelly said.

Supporting the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities has always been something of a family affair for the Smiths, starting with her parents, who own Tommy’s Hamburgers.

They first opened the restaurant in 1983 in an old Texaco station in Lake Worth. The second location opened 19 years ago on Green Oaks, and nine years ago the third location on Camp Bowie — where Kelly usually works — opened its doors.

Tommy’s has long been a meeting place for LGBT community groups, like Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, and a sponsor for events like AIDS Walk.

That support obviously grew out of the family’s love and support for Brad and Kelly, but it may have been kick-started by some people’s response to news of Brad’s HIV-positive status.

“We had a lot of people back then calling and saying things like, ‘Do all of you have AIDS?’ People were so confused about AIDS, about what it was and how it was spread,” Kelly recalled.

Kelly went to college first at Texas Wesleyan then graduated from Texas Christian University. She taught school for a few years, but then decided what she really wanted to do was return to the family business. And now she is in charge of marketing and buying for Tommy’s Hamburgers.

“It’s certainly never boring around here,” Kelly said. “I love working with my family and meeting the customers. But what I really love about this job is that it gives me the time to do volunteer work at AIDS Outreach Center.”

And that volunteer work is really about family, too: “There’s a great group of people at AIDS Outreach, like a family,” Kelly said. “It’s a group of people all coming together with one goal — to get services to the people who need them.”

Right now, that group is all coming together to kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year with a successful 19th annual AIDS Walk. And although the walk accounts for only a relatively small percentage of AIDS Outreach Center’s overall budget, Kelly said it is one of the agency’s most popular annual events.

“This is the one fundraiser we do that everyone can participate in. You can bring your children. You can bring your pets. It’s just a lot of fun for everyone,” she said.

Kelly is getting close to her own 20th anniversary with AIDS Outreach, and that’s a long time to work or volunteer in the world of AIDS — burnout is often an issue.

But not for Kelly Smith.

“Things have changed over the years,” she said. “People are more receptive to donating to the cause and being involved. But at the same time, some things haven’t changed. People are still getting infected.

“Just recently, I reconnected with an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile,” she continued. “He told me he is positive. On the one hand, it made me feel good that he felt comfortable enough with me, that he trusted me enough to tell me something so personal. But on the other hand, it was very hard to hear that someone else I know, a friend who is such a wonderful guy, has HIV.

“I was feeling safe again, I guess. And then my friend tells me he is infected. It just drives me more, makes me want to do more and work harder,” Kelly said. “I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Until there’s a cure, I’ll never stop.”

The 19th annual AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk will be held Sunday, April 3, beginning at the pavilion near 7th Street in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk steps off at 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is $25, available online at AOC.org. Registration the day of the walk is $30 and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, 2600 W. 7th St.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Walking into the future

READY, SET, WALK | AOC Executive Director Allan Gould and AIDS Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell are hoping this year’s fundraising walk will be the best yet. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

AOC’s 2011 AIDS Walk will kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center marks its 25th anniversary this year, and a number of events are already scheduled to celebrate. The first of those is the center’s 19th annual AIDS Walk, set for Sunday, April 3.

Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell said this week organizers are working to build this year’s walk into the biggest and best ever to help celebrate the center’s milestone anniversary.

In the beginning

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould has been involved with the center in some capacity practically since its inception in 1986 as the Fort Worth Counseling Center.

“I was working for Radio Shack then, and the folks from the counseling center came to Radio Shack and asked for help in getting the computers and phone systems and so on set up. I have been an active participant since then, either as a volunteer or a board member or an employee,” Gould said.

That first year, Gould said, the counseling center saw only nine people, but “it was the beginning of an outreach and an effort to supply something [help for people with AIDS] that was sorely lacking then in Tarrant County.”

In the beginning, the agency focused on getting volunteers — “mainly counselors and social workers and attorneys” — to offer services for people with AIDS, he said.

“Back then, there were no AIDS tests. People were only being diagnosed when it was really too late. There were no drugs to keep them alive,” Gould recalled. “I used to keep a record of all the people I knew who died of AIDS. But when the list reached 300 or so, I just stopped recording the names.

“I couldn’t do it anymore; it was just too devastating,” he said.

“It was the immediacy of that moment, of seeing people getting sick and dying so quickly, that caused our community — the GLBT community — to unite and create this organization to reach out and try and give some comfort to those who were dying all around us,” Gould continued.

“There wasn’t much we could do, other than offer them counseling and legal help to get their affairs in order. But we did what we could.”

In 1988, the center changed its name to Community Outreach Center and received its first public funding — a grant from the state that allowed the agency to hire its first actual employees, a counselor and Thomas Bruner, its first executive director. The newly-renamed center focused its efforts then on offering counseling to those with AIDS and on educating the public about the disease and how to avoid contracting it.

The name changed again in 1992 when the agency became the AIDS Outreach Center. Although today there’s nothing unusual about that name, at the time it was a controversial move.

“It was necessary to include ‘AIDS’ in the organization’s name. Including it directly addressed the needs we were trying to meet in the community and made sure people knew exactly what we were doing,” Gould said. “But at the same time, it shocked a lot of people. There was still a lot of discrimination happening, a lot of bias and bigotry against people with AIDS.

“That name change was a double-edged sword in a lot of ways,” he added. “It put us out there and made it easier for the people who needed us to find us, but at the same time, it caused a lot of people who had supported us to kind of withdraw, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities.

“They just didn’t want to be associated with an organization that had ‘AIDS’ in its title,” he said.

Gould said that withdrawal by some previous supporters caused the agency’s donations to drop, and it took some time to rebuild the center’s funding.

Evolution

Attitudes toward the AIDS epidemic and the needs of those with HIV/AIDS have changed over the years, and so have the center’s services.

“Our mission hasn’t changed so much as it has evolved,” Gould said. “We still have the same services we started out with — although most of the legal assistance is contracted out to Legal Hospice of Texas now — but we have continued to add services.”

The center’s counseling services today are “second to none,” and the center is top on the list of agencies to which Tarrant County MHMR refers clients with HIV seeking help, Gould said.

Among the first services to be added was social and medical case management, followed by outreach, education and prevention programs.

“The Nutrition Center came next, and it grew out of the efforts of Sandy Lanier, the wife of Dr. Bob Lanier,” Gould said. “She truly believed that good nutrition was the key to good health for people with AIDS — for everybody, really — and she literally started going around to the markets and grocery stores, getting them to donate food.

“Then she would put those donations in the back of her station wagon and drive around finding people who needed the food,” Gould said. “What she was doing eventually morphed into a more structured format and finally became our food pantry, which is one of our most used programs.”

The most recent evolution came in September 2009 when Tarrant County Interfaith Network merged into AIDS Outreach Center, adding the Guisel-Morris Dental Clinic to the center’s arsenal of services.

At the same time, AOC moved from its longtime home in a cramped and dingy space in Fort Worth’s hospital district to spacious new quarters on North Beach Street.

“That merger and the move was a big drain for us,” Gould said. “We had anticipated that it would take about half a million dollars to pay for it all, and we had gotten enough pledges, enough commitments from people to cover it.

“But then the recession hit, and a lot of those pledges didn’t come through, and we found ourselves with a real cash flow problem,” he continued. About six months ago, we realized we had to make some adjustments, and we ended up laying off four employees and cutting one to half time.”

The agency was able to absorb the duties of those missing employees into other remaining positions and in doing so, realized “a huge and immediate savings of about $130,000 a year,” Gould said.

And now that the economy has begun to recover, he said, so has AOC. Since the new fiscal year began last September, Gould said, the center has seen “a much larger outreach from individual donors than in recent years,” along with a larger outreach from corporations and foundations.

So even with what is expected to be about a 6 percent cut across the board in federal and state funds looming, AOC is able to maintain its $4.5 million budget and keep offering its programs. Gould said the center now serves about 2,000 clients annually on an ongoing basis, although “not every client uses every service we offer.” Two of the most widely-used services are the dental clinic, with about 900 active clients, and the nutrition center, with about 700 clients annually.

The Walk

The goal for this year’s AIDS Walk is $110,000 to $115,000, and while that doesn’t cover a huge portion of the agency’s overall budget, the funds are important. And just as important is the opportunity the walk presents to reach a wider audience with the center’s message of awareness and prevention.

Rowell said she is encouraged by the fact volunteers helping organize the walk are coming largely from a younger generation that “is more aware of HIV and AIDS than any other generation,” and that these young people are taking the message to a new audience.

“It’s opening a dialog with a new and larger demographic,” she said.

Rowell said she is also counting on some changes in this year’s walk to help bring in a new crop of walkers and volunteers.

“We moved the walk back to Trinity Park this year” instead of starting and ending at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center with a route that circled the Botanical Gardens, she said.

This year, the walk starts at the pavilion off 7th Street, then circles through the park to I-30 and back to the pavilion. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk itself steps off at 2:30 p.m. Anna DeHaro, Sunday morning radio host with KEGL radio station, will emcee the walk and will have Gould as a special guest on her radio show that same day.
Cooks Children’s Hospital is sponsoring the Kids Corner with special activities for the younger participants, and the Human Society will be at the walk with pets available for adoption. There will also be vendor booths set up near the pavilion.

Pre-registration is available for $25. Registration the day of the walk will be $30, and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, located nearby at 2600 W. 7th St. Luke’s Locker, Rowell said, is a sponsor for this year’s walk and has been extremely helpful in organizing the event.

She said the store specializing in gear for runners has “done a lot of advertising for us online and at every event they have participated in recently.”

Anyone who pays a registration fee will receive an AIDS Walk T-shirt. But those who bring in at least $100 more will get a canvas tote bag and a T-shirt. Those who raise at least $250 extra get the shirt, the bag and one raffle ticket, while those who raise at least $450 get all that plus one more raffle ticket.

Items donated for the raffle range include concert and theater tickets, dinners and more. Rowell said organizers are also working with representatives from the Texas Rangers baseball team to get a raffle prize donation from the championship team.

“We’re still looking for vendors and sponsors, and anyone who is interested can call me for information,” Rowell said. She can be reached at 817-916-5224 or by e-mail at pennyr@aoc.org.

Looking ahead

Gould said this year’s AIDS Walk — as well as a May 5 open house and the June 25 “Evening of Hope” gala — are just a few of the signs of the great things to come for AIDS Outreach Center.

“We are looking at the future, looking at ways to round out our programs to take a more active role in the overall care, medically speaking, of people with HIV and AIDS in Tarrant County,” Gould said, “We are always looking at new ways to serve and grow, and there are great things to come.

“Over the last 25 years, we have made some dramatic strides forward in offering services and programs to our community,” he added, “and this agency is poised to be here well into the future.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Body & Fitness: Dirty britches

Clean for now, muddy buddies Rod Orta, Jeni Maldonado and Brad Bykkonen stretch it out as they train for the grueling DFW Mud Run. Through the same goal, the three with the author found a fellowship that helps get them past the intense training. (Photo by Jef Tingley)

While preparing for the daunting DFW Mud Run, four people found fun, fitness and fellowship with one goal in mind — to finish

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

A year ago, I thought mud was only reserved for pigs and purifying facials. Never would I have guessed that I would be counting the days to run through 6.2 miles of it while also taking on a series of military-boot-camp-inspired obstacles. But then again, a year ago I never dreamed I would be surrounded by a group of friends with the same motivation — to conquer the mud if only to say we did it.

And on April 9, that’s exactly what we plan to do at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Tarrant County. The DFW Mud Run is an annual event and one of seven throughout the country. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in North Texas in November 2010 with almost 4,000 attendees. A quick glance at the rules and regulations on the website reveals that this run can be as serious or as silly as you like, but one thing is for sure — you will get dirty. (And not in a Christina-Aguilera-wearing-chaps kind of way.)

Our group of seven runners (growing in number as we peer pressure others) met while working out at Booty Camp. Some were already in shape; others, like myself, were first timers. Somewhere during the months of waking up early, sweating during push-ups and running loops around Lee Park, a new level of friendship formed.

Jeni Maldonado, 29, and the official straight girl of our gay boy mud run group, shares the same sentiments about the camaraderie side effects of working out en mass.

“Through [group training], I have found a true love and passion for physical fitness and made some great new friends. Since starting in May of 2010, I even changed careers and am now a personal trainer focusing on children and childhood obesity.”

Mud runners can compete on the course in a variety of timed events and specified groups made up of all-men, all-women or co-ed teams. Or, there’s a category called DGAP, which stands for Division for Generally Athletic People or “Don’t Give A Poop.” This is our group. DGAP allows runners to wear costumes, run as a group or individually, and to generally enjoy the course as they see fit.

Rod Orta, a 39-year-old East Dallas resident, started working out in groups for almost four years. Since that time, he has formed lasting friendships with his fellow fitness enthusiasts, even going on vacations with them and hosting parties for the group at his home.

A first-time mud runner, Orta says, “I wanted to experience the activity and spend time with friends.” His training plan includes “strength workouts, cardio and a cute outfit.” He’s also quick to pass on helpful hints to his fellow runners. “Wear sensible shoes. No high heels,” he jokes.

The run will also make a first-time experience for 35-year-old Bryan Place resident Mark Doty. Inspired by other friends who have done it, he says it’s just something he has wanted to do. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for would be runners, Doty simply offered ups “Since this is my first time, I would just say ‘pray.’”

Topping off the dirt, the DFW Mud Run boasts more than 30 obstacles. Judging from videos from previous runs these include balance beams, rope swings and plenty of commando crawls. But it’s still not enough to keep Brad Bykkonen, a 39-year-old Highland Park resident, away.
“It sounds like fun,” he says. “I’ve met people who I know I’ll surely be laughing with during our mud run adventure.”

Booty Camp founder Dr. Eric Peay agrees that fitness can lead to friendship. A boot camp he attended in 1998 introduced him to someone who is now his best friend. A more experienced runner, Peay has run 5K and 10K races with a specific goal or time in mind. But this mud run is, “just for the sheer fun of it,” he says.

As for me, I’ll continue to count down the days, train and hope that I can find the perfect pair of combat boots and army fatigues to wear on my inaugural muddy voyage with the hope that the friendships I’ve formed will keep the physical fatigue at bay.

Registration for the April run is still open. For more information, visit DFWMudRun.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Help kick off AOC’s 2011 AIDS Walk

The AIDS Outreach Center in Tarrant County marks its 25th anniversary this year, and one of the first celebrations will be the agency’s 19th annual AIDS Walk on Sunday, April 23.

You can read more about the history of AOC and plans for this year’s AIDS Walk in the Friday issue of Dallas Voice, but you can get a head start on the walk by going to the kick-off party Thursday night, Feb. 17, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Tommy’s Hamburger Grill, 5228 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth. Tommy’s — who have, I have heard, some of if not the best burgers in Cowtown — will be providing free beer and burgers for the event. And walk coordinator Penny Rowell — along with other AOC staff members and walk organizing committee members — will be there with all the information you need to get involved and get walking to raise money for AOC.

Rowell said she will be working the party to get folks interested in being AIDS Walk team captains by helping out with ideas for recruiting team members and raising funds. (Of course, I figure they had most people at “free burgers and beer.”)

—  admin

Joel Burns is kicking off his campaign tonight in Fort Worth. Is there any chance it’ll be for mayor?

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will celebrate his 42nd birthday tonight with a re-election campaign kickoff party at the Historic Fort Worth Masonic Temple.

“When I think about my childhood birthday memories, I remember Mom baked and decorated a unique cake every year tied to a themed party she dreamed up,” Burns writes on his website, where people can also share their own birthday memories. “One year was train cars, another was cowboys, and I remember being particularly excited about the year I had a Speed Racer party. After the party we would climb into Daddy’s pick-up and drive to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My family always made me feel special, as though all of Fort Worth was putting on this grand event just for me and my birthday. Fort Worth remains my favorite place to celebrate a birthday, and I’m proud that it remains a place that makes everyone feel welcomed and special.”

We put in a call to Burns earlier today but haven’t heard back yet. While we have no reason to believe he plans to run for anything other than re-election to his District 9 council seat, we’re sure we’re not alone in wondering if he’s entertained any thoughts whatsoever of running for mayor. Four-term incumbent Mayor Mike Moncrief announced his retirement on Thursday. The filing period begins Monday, and the race to replace Moncrief is already under way. At the very least, it’s fun to dream about the prospect of having second gay big-city mayor in Texas.

Burns did issue a statement on Thursday afternooon in response to Moncrief’s retirement:

“In his service as State Representative, County Judge, State Senator and Mayor, Mike Moncrief has been a example of public service to the citizens of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas my entire life,” Burns said. “I have enjoyed serving with a mayor who has such a strong and evident love for Fort Worth and commitment to Fort Worth’s future generations.  I hope that after he and his co-captain, Rosie, have the ability to spend some much-deserved time together, that they will continue to be example of service and leadership in our City for decades to come.”

RSVP for Burns’ party — where, who knows, he might make an unexpected announcement — by going here.

—  John Wright

TCGPWA announces big plans for 2011

FAITH-BASED PRIDE | The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, waves to the crowd as part of the church’s entry in the 2010 Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Parade moving downtown, will include Street Fest; parade and picnic condensed into 1 weekend

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth’s LGBT community, re-energized by the June, 2009, raid on the Rainbow Lounge, has over the last 18-plus months become a much more organized, visible and active presence in the city.

Last October’s annual Tarrant County Gay Pride Week provided strong evidence of the community’s vitality.

The Pride parade was the largest in many years and included a first-time feature: a block party on South Jennings Street with vendors, entertainment and the Coors Main Stage. The following weekend, the popular Pride Week picnic pulled in a huge and diverse crowd to Trinity River Park.

This year, as TCGPW Association plans for its 30th annual Pride celebration, Fort Worth’s LGBT community can look forward to an even bigger and better event, parade chairman Tony Coronado said this week.

The biggest change, Coronado said, will be in the timing of the main Pride week events. Previously, the parade has been held on a Sunday afternoon to kick off the week, and the picnic has wound up the festivities the following Saturday. But this year, the parade and picnic are being held the same weekend — and the parade is moving downtown for the first time in its 30-year history.

The Ride the Rainbow Pride Parade and Street Festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 1, with the parade beginning at 10 a.m. on Main Street. The Street Festival, Coronado said, begins after the parade and continues until 6 p.m.

ROYALTY ON PARADE | The 2010 TCGPWA titleholders were among the entries in Fort Worth’s Pride parade last October. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

The following day — Sunday, Oct. 2 — the picnic will be held from noon to 6 p.m. in Trinity Park, with the area and layout expanded to accommodate the expected increase in attendance, Coronado said.

But while the two main events will take place in one weekend, Coronado said Pride week runs from Sept. 29 through Oct. 9, with a variety of local events set throughout the week and the International Gay Rodeo Association’s World Gay Rodeo Finals taking place Oct. 7-9 in Fort Worth.

One reason for condensing the parade and picnic into one weekend, Coronado said, is to broaden the celebration’s appeal to out-of-towners, especially since this will be the 30th annual parade.

“We’ve been working with the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau a lot. They are helping promote our celebration, and having it all in one weekend will make it easier for people to come in from out of town to attend,” Coronado said. “This way, they don’t have to decide between coming for the parade or coming for the picnic. They can come for one weekend and attend both.”

Coronado stressed that being able to coordinate these events on a larger scale than in the past and make sure they are successful requires careful planning — which is why TCGPWA laid out a two-year plan to prepare for the anniversary year, and why the organization has made a concerted effort to reach out to as many organizations and communities as possible.

“We are using social networking a lot, and we are reaching out to the LGBT individuals and organizations throughout Tarrant County, especially in the rural areas, trying to get them involved and excited,” he said.

“Whether they are officially involved or not, all the GLBT organizations in Tarrant County are a part of the pride celebration. It’s up to them as to how much they participate, but we want to make sure they know they are all invited to be a part of this.”

TCGPWA is also in the process of creating a scholarship fund through its new education committee, Coronado said. An awards panel has been established to research and develop criteria, target needs, set parameters and establish a required apprenticeship to award a scholarship to someone in the LGBT community.

For more information, go online to TCGPWA.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Hutchison to vote against DADT repeal because ‘FORMER leaders’ of military oppose it

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office sent over the following statement this afternoon in response to our inquiry about her position on a standalone measure to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell.”

“I will not support a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” Hutchison said. “After speaking with military personnel and former leaders of our armed services, I remain very concerned about how repealing this policy could negatively impact unit cohesion and overall troop readiness — especially during a time of war.”

It’s interesting that Hutchison doesn’t identify the “military personnel” or “former leaders” with whom she claims to have spoken. We know, for example, that she’s repeatedly refused to meet with Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who lives in Tarrant County. According to a recently released Pentagon study, the “military personnel” who spoke to Hutchison are in the minority. Furthermore, why would she speak with “former leaders of our armed services” instead of current ones? The top two current military leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, both support DADT repeal. And all of the current service chiefs say repeal would be no problem.

So can someone please explain WTF she’s talking about?

UPDATE: Maybe she’s been spending too much time with homophobic Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Jewish boy saves Christmas for kids impacted by HIV/AIDS in Fort Worth

This story must be the antithesis to First Baptist Church of Dallas’ “Grinch alert” website .

Carter Haber, a 12-year-old Jewish boy from Aledo, saved Christmas for more than 50 children whose families are clients of Samaritan House, which provides housing for low-income people with HIV/AIDS in Tarrant County.

Carter raised $5,000 for the gifts as a service project for his bar mitzvah after the Samaritan House lost a corporate sponsor, according to CBS 11:

And the fact a Jewish rite of passage provides Christmas to children?  “I don’t think it matters,” Haber said. “A good deed is a good deed any day, any time, anywhere.”

Now Carter wants to continue raising money to help Samaritan House clients pay their rent. To contribute, e-mail carter@fdtrainingssystems.com.

—  John Wright