Just before The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida (“The Center”) held their successful Black and White Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art, a new executive director was chosen to replace the outgoing Randy Stephens. Terry DeCarlo, formerly the Director of Marketing, Public Relations and Events at Broward House, was chosen to fill the role, and he started working at The Center on October 6.
DeCarlo had a long career serving the South Florida LGBT community, working with Broward House for eight years and working as Marketing and Communications Director for CARE Resource before that. Now his talents bring him to Central Florida to help their LGBT community.
I got a chance to speak to Terry DeCarlo about the Black and White Gala, The Center’s expansion, and what’s in store for the organization in the coming months.
What’s it like working at The Center?
The job is absolutely amazing. I’m having an incredible time.
We have been busy beyond belief! The City of Orlando just gave us a $150,000 grant to completely redo The Center so right now I am in the midst of moving my staff to a building we own next door. Within the next three weeks, the construction crews will come in to the current Center and gut the entire thing, and hopefully by the end of January, Central Florida will have a brand new community center. I’m working on the plans right now, and I hope it’s something the community will be proud of. I want to make it big and beautiful.
When the community center reopens next year, what services will you continue to offer and what’s coming that is new?
The Center is the largest HIV testing agency in the state of Florida. We perform over 500 tests per month. We’re going to expand on that. Right now we have two testing rooms; in the new Center I want to add a third testing room and also a waiting area where people can stay while they are waiting for their test results.
We are bringing in more groups: the Toastmasters are going to be renting space here, and the RED [Referral Exchange Development] Group Orlando is going to be meeting here. We already have Alcoholics Anonymous here, we do HIV testing and HIV counseling, we do substance abuse counseling, we have codependency groups, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence…there are about 60 groups that meet here at The Center monthly. Now that people know that a new Center is coming, more and more groups are knocking at our door wanting to meet here. Once the new Center is finished, we’re going to have so much space for everybody. We’re really looking forward to what’s going to happen over here.
I imagine you’ve gotten a lot of support from different politicians in Orlando as well.
Commissioner [Patty] Sheehan has been an absolute godsend to The Center. Her and Eric Rollings were the two catalysts behind getting us the community development grant that allowed us to grow. And [Mayor] Buddy Dyer has been great all the way through. He wants to come over when we start doing our renovations and he wants to be there when we’re ready to cut the ribbon. He said, “Just let me know when and I’ll be there.” The support from the politicians, and the community as well, has been just so incredible. At Orlando Pride a few weeks ago, The Center didn’t have a float, but we had cars and people walking in the parade, and people were yelling at us, “We love The Center!” It really taught me how much The Center means to the Central Florida community.
Let’s talk about the Black and White Gala. I attended and thought it was wonderful. Did this year build on the two previous years?
We actually sold out the venue this year, which was the Orlando Museum of Art. We raised over $49,000 that night, and considering this event has only been in existence for three years, and that it’s a medium-sized gala, it’s definitely expanded and exceeded everyone’s expectations. This year’s Gala is a stepping stone to an event that will be larger and grander next year.
What are The Center’s plans for the future?
In Central Florida, I’ve noticed that World AIDS Day has been lost in the shuffle. Much like I did in South Florida, I have started working planning an event for World AIDS Day up here.
As for my ultimate dream, I’d love to utilize the space next door, move my office to the back of the building, and use the front area that’s completely surrounded by windows as a coffee shop which would act as a business for The Center. Then, on top of that, connect the two buildings, where the community center would sit next door to the coffee shop. That is my dream. If it becomes a reality, I would love it. I want people to come to The Center and know they are welcome at any time.
Follow The Center’s updates in real time on Facebook by “liking” their page at facebook.com/thecenterorlando.