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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Center on Halsted LGBT community center will soon celebrate five years in operation with a gala expected to attract 1,500 people.
The center opened on June 1, 2007 at 3656 N. Halsted St. on the Boystown strip. Now, the center says more than 1,000 community members visit the facility every day.
Since-retired Mayor Richard M. Daley had high hopes for the center at the groundbreaking in 2005.
“This center will stand as a beacon of hope throughout the country and the world,” Daley said at the time. “Other cities will follow.”
According to the center, the mayor has been proven right.
“Since opening our doors, Center on Halsted has grown to become the Midwest’s leading and most comprehensive LGBT community center,” chief executive officer Modesto Tico Valle said in a news release. “Together, we’ve been able to build and strengthen individual lives and the LGBT community as a whole. We’re not only excited to celebrate our first five years, we’re also excited to showcase how we are continuing to grow.”
The growth now continues with a $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand HIV-related services, the center said. The center is also partnering with the Heartland Alliance to construct the first affordable housing facility geared toward LGBT seniors in the Midwest, in a new building that will incorporate the old Town Hall District police station at 3600 N. Halsted St.
On May 12, 1,500 community members are expected at the annual Human First Gala at the at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, celebrating the center’s fifth anniversary. A performances by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang will be among the highlights, the center said.
The history of the Center on Halsted dates back to 1973, when volunteers established the group Gay Horizons as an information clearinghouse and meetingplace for LGBT Chicagoans. Volunteer med students later began providing medical services, as well as mental health and social services, as Chicago’s gay community boomed in a section of East Lakeview known as New Town in the 1970s.
Gay Horizons expended throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and began recruiting volunteers to help HIV/AIDS patients shortly after the virus was first identified in 1981. The group, later renamed Horizons Community Services, became the premier LGBT social service agency in the Midwest.
Horizons acquired the property at the southwest corner of Halsted Street and Waveland Avenue in the early 2000s, and changed its name to the Center on Halsted in 2003. The new center opened in conjunction with the beginning of Gay Pride Month in 2007.