OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center plans to recognize Freedom Inc. and several community members during their 28th Annual Awards Ceremony, a virtual celebration this year, this Friday, Nov. 13.

“We wanted to be able to honor organizations in the community that do things that are impactful to our LGBTQ friends,” Outreach Board Member Dana Pellebon told Madison365. 

Due to the pandemic and event restrictions in Dane County, OutReach LGBTQ Community Center will host the banquet as an online event to protect the health of the community. The organization plans to present four awards this year.

“There is a whole nomination process and once someone is nominated, it goes to a committee. That committee has board members, previous award winners, and members of the community,” Pellebon said.

Steven Wang

The virtual awards show this Friday from 7-8:30 p.m. will be streamed online via Facebook Live. OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center will highlight the work of several awards recipients including: 

  • Steven Wang, a UW-Madison student whose dissertation project focuses on LGBTQ+ health inequality will receive the 2020 Advocate of the Year Award. 
  • Freedom Inc. provides free, confidential services to low-income Black and Southeast Asian women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people in the Madison area. OutReach will present Freedom Inc. with the 2020 Organization of the Year Award.

    Shiva Bidar
  • Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, the Chief Diversity Officer at UW Health and City of Madison Common Council member, will receive the Ally of the Year Award.
  • Kayleb Hawj, Queer Justice Coordinator at Freedom, Inc. will receive the 2020 Courage Award.
Kayleb Hawj

OutReach’s 28th Annual Awards Celebration will also feature WISC-TV’s Michael Bruno as emcee, music from Milwaukee indie artist Grey Genius, and a keynote from Gov. Tony Evers. In addition, Pellebon said the community will hear about some of the services OutReach has offered in the last year including Wilma’s Fund. Recipient Salman Mushtaq will share a personal story during the ceremony. 

Willma’s Fund is a project of OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center that provides relief for LGBTQ+ homelessness or support to prevent homelessness. The fund was founded by Donald Haar, an openly gay man and drag performer since the 1970s. 

“We gave out a lot of money this year to help those who lost their jobs and lost their homes,” Pellebon said. “We know that being homeless is a problem but we know being homeless with intersections is very difficult.”

Since the fund began in April 2011, 270 clients have received support through the fund, totaling in $120,000. This year Wilma’s Fund served 90 clients who received an average grant of $335 to assist with short-term, immediate needs. In 2020, Willma’s Fund has spent $30,000 so far. 

Pellebon also said OutReach will have a special announcement for community members during the ceremony. Viewers will have to tune in live to find out more information.

“This gives people an opportunity to connect with our community partners. It’s important for people to know there are organizations like Freedom Inc. and get involved. It also gives people an opportunity to get to know our staff,” Pellebon said.