Call it a Christmas miracle or a testament to the community’s generosity, but The 519, Toronto’s LGBT community centre, brought in a record haul of donations in the final months of 2015.
The 519 says it raised $407,805 between September and December, more than triple the amount it was hoping for when it put out an emergency call for donations after its major fundraising parties during Pride weekend were rained out.
The fundraising haul was helped along by an anonymous $125,000 matching donation and a $50,000 donation from TD Bank.
“This has been an extraordinary response from our community and we’re incredibly grateful,” says Maura Lawless, executive director of The 519. “This is amazing result that will benefit the LGTBQ communities we serve.”
The new revenue will support expanded programming for LGBT refugees and newcomers, and programming and services for trans youth. Refugee services have become a large part of The 519’s programming over the past few years, Lawless says, with an average of 150–200 client visits to the centre weekly. When the summer fundraising shortfall was announced, there was concern that these services might be cut back, particularly as The 519 was bracing for a new wave of refugees arriving from Syria.
“We were able to expand and didn’t have to impact our newcomer and refugee programs,” Lawless says. “In 2016, we’ll be able to [take on] a full-time staffer to support newcomers and refugees.”
The 519 will also launch a pilot program with the United Way, which will partner trans youth with a mentor who will help them return to school or get jobs.
More than 500 individuals donated during the end-of-year fundraising campaign — more than double the number of donors during the same period the previous year. In addition, many more people attended third-party fundraising events organized by community members.
“A lot of community members have a personal connection to The 519,” Lawless says. “They recognised that it was incredibly important to step up and to support The 519. The matching donation was a big contributor. I think a lot of people got excited about that and felt like it would make a difference.”
The 519 has already begun planning for the 2016 Green Space Festival which will run from June 30 to July 3, 2016, as part of the Pride festivities this summer.