The Los Angeles LGBT Center, formerly known as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, has launched the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the LGBT movement.
Donors have pledged $19 million toward a $25 million goal, according to a statement released by the Center. The lion’s share of that initial pledge was given by philanthropist Anita May Rosenstein, a Los Angeles native and longtime supporter of the nonprofit organization. The announcement of the campaign coincides with the renaming of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, as well as a new sign on the facility's exterior.
The funds will be used to expand the Center’s services in Los Angeles by providing more than 100 new housing units for LGBT youth as well as low-income LGBT seniors. At least 40 percent of the 6,000 homeless youth in Los Angeles are LGBT, according to the Center, and the expanded campus, expected to break ground in 2016, will help expand the Center's capacity to provide this population with food, medical, and housing services.
Lorri Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, says that the demand for serving both LGBT youth and seniors, another demographic that faces discrimination in housing facilities, is "acute."
"The Center has always risen to the occasion for our community — relentlessly finding ways to build the health and strength of LGBT people when few others had the interest or ability to do so," Jean stated. "Now that the demand for services and housing for LGBT youth and seniors is acute, it's time for us to step up again. I’m enormously grateful to the many donors who have done the same, especially to longtime Center supporter Anita May Rosenstein for her historic gift, enormous generosity and faith in the Center."
Rosenstein, 60, pledged the lead gift of $6.5 million, the largest ever given to an LGBT organization by a living person. She committed the historic amount at a recent board meeting at her house in Laguna Beach, where Rosenstein agreed to match the pledges of other board members. Other major donors include Ariadne Getty and the Fuserna Foundation, who pledged $2 million, as well as $1 million commitments from William and Cindy Shopoff; Jacinto Hernandez and Charles Callahan; David J. Bailey and Ron B. Shalowitz; Barry McCabe; and Loren S. Ostrow and Brian Newkirk.
Rosenstein is the great-granddaughter of David May, the founder of The May Department Stores Company, one of the most prominent department store holding companies in American history. Following the announcement of her historic donation, Rosenstein released a statement that cited lessons of family and community imparted by her grandparents, Tom and Anita May, who moved to Beverly Hills in the 1930s. Her family has strong ties to the city — her son, Brian Rosenstein, currently serves as planning commissioner of Beverly Hills.
"My grandparents taught us that 'family values' mean you give back to your community," Rosenstein said. "If you can give, you must give. And because the Center has an unmatched record of effective programs to help make the world a better place for LGBT people, this isn't just a gift, it’s a solid investment in the entire community's future."
"I'm especially proud to support their innovative approach of combining services for youth and seniors on one campus," she added. "They've seen the great synergies that this can create."
Rosenstein has been a supporter of the Los Angeles LGBT Center since 1995, when she gave a $250 donation to the AIDS/LifeCycle, an annual bike ride that raises funds for the Center’s lifesaving work in HIV testing and treatment. She donated $500 directly to the Center in 1997, and has become one of its most generous annual donors. She is also a longtime supporter of the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.
Rosenstein was first introduced to the Los Angeles LGBT Center by actress Judith Light, a former board member who brought Rosenstein to the Center for her first tour. A supporter of the Wilbur May Foundation, which provides youth services, Rosenstein was impressed by the Center's work in this area, and has advocated for the development of a larger facility throughout her decades-long relationship with the organization.
"Anita was anxious to support us in an effort to build more space for homeless youth," Lorri Jean tells The Advocate. "She knew that was a need, and she wanted to help us do it."
"She's pretty shy, believe it or not," Jean adds. "She once told me that if I ever asked her to speak [in public], she would never give us another dime. And yet she has agreed to make this statement at the press conference, which is pretty extraordinary."
Jean said it was Rosenstein’s commitment to youth as well as her trust in the capabilities of the Center to enact postive change that has kept her a committed supporter year after year.
"She pays very close to the financials of every organization she gives to," Jean says about Rosenstein, who is a wealth manager. "But if her heart gets touched, she is almost boundless in her generosity. It's really inspiring."