Gay matchmaking service He’s For Me opens Dallas office

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From left, He’s For Me Dallas manager Dana Foley-Taylor, owner Tammy Shaklee and North Texas GLBT Chamber’s Tony Vedda and Ron Watterson help cut the ribbon at the office’s opening Friday. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas gays now have no excuse to be single — at least not for long.

Gay matchmaking service He’s for Me opened its Dallas office on Friday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and introduce the full-time staff to the community. Staff members were joined by members of the GLBT North Texas Chamber of Commerce, of which H4M is a member.

The company started in Austin in the fall of 2012. Within six months, matchmakers were setting up Dallas and Houston couples, owner Tammy Shaklee said.  The popularity made a full-time office in Big D necessary, and she plans to open a Houston location next.

Shaklee said it’s easy to meet people, but it’s hard to know if they’re single, looking for a serious relationship and if you’re compatible with them.

And she met her husband through a dating service in Austin seven years ago.

“I would have never met him without the matchmaking service,” she said.

She then tried to convince a gay friend to use a service to find love. Only he couldn’t find a service that paired gays.

“I started the research, and after three days of trying to find service for him, I found that none existed,” she said. “When I couldn’t find a service for him to hire to help him, I started the process to start it myself.”

H4M also serves gays in Seattle, after a Houston client relocated and wanted Shaklee’s company to help him there. The company now serves gays in Denver, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

While Shaklee, a straight ally, saw the need for gays to have a service, she said she’s researching expanding the company for lesbians with a She’s For Me component.

“I really do believe in my heart that it took a straight ally to give the community something that it hadn’t had the opportunity to have before,” she said.

H4M Dallas office is located at at 2911 Turtle Creek Blvd., 3rd Floor. For more info about HFM, go here.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay chamber brings ’13 conference to Omni Dallas 4 years after benefits flap

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has selected Dallas as the city to host its summer 2013 National Business & Leadership Conference — and the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel as the venue.

The 10th anniversary conference will come to Dallas four years after local controversy over Dallas’ city-operated Omni offering domestic partner benefits. Dallas Voice raised questions about the hotel not offering DP benefits in 2009 after the city signed a 15-year operating agreement with the company for the $500 million hotel.

Omni is one of the few major hotel chains that doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees throughout the U.S. Omni is also owned by Oak Lawn-based TRT Holdings, whose CEO, Robert Rowling, has contributed millions to Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads.

The convention center hotel later announced it would offer DP benefits when it opened last fall after Mayor Tom Leppert convinced the company to do so, even though it hadn’t been considered as part of the operating agreement between the city and the hotel.

Omni is now a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

“The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is honored to be hosting the 2013 NGLCC Business & Leadership Conference,” President & CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber Tony Vedda said in a release. “Dallas is a city of entrepreneurs and innovation; two words that are synonymous with the NGLCC. It seems only fitting that Dallas should host the NGLCC’s 10th anniversary conference.”

The conference will be from July 30 to Aug. 2. Registration begins Feb. 1.

Read the full press release below.

—  Dallasvoice

GLBT Chamber’s LEAP Scholarship deadline approaching

From left: GLBT Chamber Treasurer Bob Stutz, Chairman Derrick Brown; LEAP scholars Pamela Hancock, Alex Parrish and Constance Siegel; and Vice Chairman Gib Murray.

The deadline to apply for a LEAP scholarship offered by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is Aug. 3.

Created in 2009, LEAP — Leadership Education & Advocacy Program — scholarships support youth and nurture the development of leaders in the LLBT community. LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who have worked closely with the LGBT community are encouraged to apply.

“In 2011 we distributed $7,500 in scholarships,” Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said. “The LEAP Board has allocated $10,000 for the 2012-13 academic year.”

Applicants must be Texas residents, be LGBT or members of LGBT families or allies, and show a commitment to civil and human rights. Applicants should exhibit leadership potential, demonstrate strong academic abilities and be actively involved in school and community organizations. The application can be found online.

The primary fundraiser for the scholarship is the annual Holly Jolly Ball in December. Donations can also be made online.

Vedda said that applicants should complete the application and submit it as soon as possible. He said he could extend the deadline on backup documentation until Aug. 13.

—  David Taffet

GLBT Chamber announces 2012 award winners

Jack Evans, left, and George Harris

George Harris and Jack Evans, the local gay couple whom David Taffet profiled on the occasion of their 50th anniversary last year, will pick up another honor later this month from the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Evans and Harris will collect the chamber’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award during the group’s seventh annual dinner, set for March 28 at the Adolphus Hotel. Others who’ll be honored at the dinner are listed below. For more information or to register for the dinner, go here.

—  John Wright

Omni confirms DP benefits for convention hotel

ROOMS WITH VIEWS | Workers put the finishing touches on the pool deck this week at Dallas’ convention center hotel, as the downtown skyline looms behind them. The hotel is scheduled to open Nov. 11. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM INSIDE THE HOTEL

Facility owned by city of Dallas to open Nov. 11

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A spokeswoman for Omni Hotels confirmed this week that the company will offer domestic partner benefits to its employees at Dallas’ convention center hotel, slated to open next month.

It marks the first time a representative from Irving-based Omni Hotels has stated directly that the company plans to offer DP benefits at the city-owned facility.

Omni, which operates 50 luxury hotels in North America, is one of the few major lodging chains that doesn’t offer DP benefits across the board. However, Omni spokeswoman Caryn Kboudi said the company opted to do so at the convention center hotel because the facility is owned by the city, which has offered DP benefits to its employees since 2004.

“We’re pleased to do it, and it’s in keeping with the city of Dallas’ practices,” Kboudi said.

Kboudi said the convention center hotel, slated to open Nov. 11, will initially employ 600-650 people, about 80 percent of whom will be full time and eligible for benefits. At “peak performance,” the hotel could employ up to 800 people, she said.

The question of whether Omni Hotels would offer DP benefits at the facility was first raised in a Dallas Voice article in April 2009 — two months after the city had signed a 15-year operating agreement with the company for the $500 million hotel.

The article appeared days before the vote on a referendum aimed at barring the city from building and owning the hotel. Mayor Tom Leppert, a major supporter of the hotel, assured the newspaper that he would convince the company to offer DP benefits, even though it had not been considered as part of the operating agreement.

The referendum was defeated, and six weeks later, both Leppert’s office and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced that Omni had agreed to offer DP benefits — although the company wouldn’t confirm it at the time.

“Until you [Dallas Voice] raised the issue, it wasn’t on people’s radar,” said Chris Heinbaugh, who’s openly gay and was Leppert’s chief of staff. “A light bulb went off. It was a significant step for the city.”

It reportedly marked the first time the city has prompted a contractor to offer DP benefits.

Heinbaugh, who now works for the AT&T Performing Arts Center, declined to discuss in detail the negotiations that led to Omni’s commitment to offer DP benefits. Leppert is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican and has come out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

A spokesman for Leppert’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In addition to agreeing to offer DP benefits, Omni Hotels joined the North Texas GLBT Chamber in 2009. Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said this week the company remains a silver level corporate member, which means an annual contribution of $5,000 to the organization.

“I certainly assumed that they were going to stick to their word [on DP benefits],” Vedda said. “It would be devastating if we were told one thing and something else occurred.”

Vedda said the chamber would also like to see Omni offer DP benefits at its publicly owned convention center hotel in Fort Worth. Fort Worth began offering domestic partner benefits to municipal employees last year.

—  John Wright

Deadline approaching for LEAP scholarships

Vedda.Tony

Tony Vedda

Fewer students than expected have applied for college scholarships through a program run by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Leadership Education & Advocacy Program (GLBT LEAP) is offering up to $7,500 in scholarships this year in its first-ever award cycle. GLBT LEAP is the chamber’s scholarship and leadership development organization.

The deadline to apply for scholarships is Oct. 15, and Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said today he’s been underwhelmed by the number of applications.

“There’s still another week,” Vedda said. “We’d sure like to see some more applications, because we want to give some people some money.”

The scholarships are open to all Texas residents beginning or continuing undergraduate work in January. Applicants will be evaluated based on financial need, academic achievement and community service. Preference will be given to LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who’ve been strongly supportive of the community.

To apply for a GLBT LEAP scholarship, complete the 2011 Scholarship Application Form at www.GLBTLEAP.org

Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 15. Completed applications should be sent to Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, ATTN: Scholarships, 3824 Cedar Springs Road, Ste. 417, Dallas, TX 75219.

For more information, email at scholarships@glbtleap.org

—  John Wright

Vedda attends conference

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce celebrated National Small Business Week last week by gathering LGBT chamber leaders from Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, Spokane and Minneapolis in Washington D.C.

Tony Vedda of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce was among those that met.

“My leadership role in NGLCC allows me to be an advocate, not only for people in my region, but for LGBT chambers around the country,” said Vedda

Chamber members strategized new ways to strengthen affiliate LGBT chambers and drive small business growth among the organization’s 29,000 members.

NGLCC has been a vocal proponent for President Obama’s Small Business Agenda, which calls for “improved access to government contracts [for small business] as well as avoid contract bundling,” according to a statement released by NGLCC.

NGLCC also signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. Department of Commerce in January to “promote cooperation and collaborative action” and “to identify LGBT-owned businesses for the Department’s outreach and contracting requirements.”

— David Taffet

—  John Wright