FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATLANTA, Ga., December 14, 2022 –– OUT Georgia Business Alliance proudly recognized eight spotlight award winners and unveiled $35,000 in grants at the 2022 Community Honors Celebration held December 9 at Atlanta City Hall.
Presented by Amazon, the nonprofit chamber’s annual awards event highlighted Georgia’s LGBTQ+ and allied businesses, nonprofits, and leaders, while bringing together 300 attendees and 15 LGBTQ+ vendors and performers for an impactful evening.
“After two years of meaningful virtual experiences, it was an absolute joy to bring the Community Honors Celebration back in-person for 2022 in such a grand and intentional fashion,” said Chris Lugo, Executive Director of the OUT Georgia Business Alliance.
Guests arrived to Atlanta City Hall to find the fabulous sounds of the MetroGnomes Big Band, bar and food options from JenChan’s, Occasional Occasions by Carlton, and Baker Dude, a tasting with Don Cosme Tequila, photography by Mark Morin and Josephine of La Choloteca, and a 360 photo booth experience by Jay Productions Agency.
Behind the scenes, Andi Monroe, OUT Georgia’s Operations & Programs Coordinator, led Mitchell Event Planning, Dunlop Productions, Hierarchy, AlphaGraphics Dunwoody – Sandy Springs, Creative Approach, event manager Ray Rosa, and a team of volunteers to elevate the event’s production and guest experience at every turn.
Atlanta drag royalty Ella/Saurus/Rex served as Mistress of Events and opened up the awards show with a performance before co-chairs Malik Brown and Walter Scott-Williams welcomed guests, set the stage for the evening’s program, and raised a glass in memory of Lynn Barfield, a fierce LGBTQ+ ally and advocate who passed just days before.
Andi Monroe and Montañita, OUT Georgia’s TGX360 Coordinator, held space to share about the trans experience and to challenge those in the room to further invest in and center transgender and gender expansive (TGX) Georgians.
Drag performer and award finalist SHI was then welcomed on stage to perform and honor the victims of the recent Club Q shooting: Daniel Aston (he/him), Kelly Loving (she/her), Ashley Paugh (she/ her), Derrick Rump (he/him), and Raymond Green Vance (he/him).
Award winners for the evening included Raphael Bostic as Business Leader of the Year; Pastor Candace Hardnett as Community Leader of the Year; Liliana Bakhtiari as Next Gen Leader of the Year; THRIVE SS as Nonprofit of the Year; Bank of America as Corporate Ally of the Year; T.R.A.N.S.parent Life Conversations as New Business of the Year; The Bohemian Den as Small Business of the Year; and Miko Evans as Member of the Year.
One of the final moments of the program centered on the OUT Georgia Impact Fund, powered by United Way of Greater Atlanta, which aims to fuel a meaningful, measurable, and lasting impact for the LGBTQ+ community across the Greater Atlanta Region.
Hillary Williams Thomas, who serves as the Impact Fund’s chair, shared the first-ever grants with the audience, which included seven $5,000 awards to All 1 Family, A Vision for Hope, Covenant House Georgia, I Am Human Foundation, THRIVE SS, Trans Housing Coalition, and Zami NOBLA.
“True to our mission of supporting and advancing LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations, OUT Georgia spent $45,000 across 15 LGBTQ+ vendors and performers to bring the event to life, and we announced another $35,000 in OUT Georgia Impact Fund grants to seven local nonprofits. We invested $80,000 into our community, all while honoring our 39 category finalists, eight incredible award winners, and all those who make this organization special,” Lugo added.
The signature event’s planning committee included Malik Brown, Walter Scott-Williams, Matt Mitchell, Maria Álvarez, Hillary Williams Thomas, and Stephen Scriber, with staff leadership from Andi Monroe and support from several volunteers.
“We set the bar incredibly high for our organization and this experience, and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to gather with the leaders and organizations that inspire me and so many others to fight for LGBTQ+ Georgians across the Peach State.”
OUT Georgia’s 2022 and 2023 Board Presidents, David Gacsko and Luis Ruiz, respectively, closed out the evening by acknowledging those making the event possible, Members, Partners, and all those in the room.
New additions to the Board include Carlton Brown, Paul Conroy, Jack Kinley, Katie Leikam, Bruce Logue, and Matt Mitchell, and the Board’s 2023 Executive Team will be led by Luis Ruiz as president, Walter Scott-Williams as vice president, Gabrielle Claiborne as secretary, and Maria Álvarez as treasurer.
Congratulations to OUT Georgia’s honorees, winners, and the entire Membership for a truly special 2022, and thank you to our event sponsor, year-long Partners, and the entertainment that included Ella/Saurus/Rex, Dotte Com, Michael Robinson, SHI, MetroGnomes, and GeeXella!
We invite you to our first major event of 2023, our Kickoff & Membership Drive, happening on February 1, and you won’t want to miss the LGBTQ+ Business Summit & Matchmaker held June 21-22 here in Atlanta!
Business Leader of the Year
This award is given to the LGBTQ+ business leader in our community who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to their organization, as well as to the OUT Georgia Business Alliance and the LGBTQ+ business community.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Business Leader of the Year is Raphael Bostic of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta!
Community Leader of the Year
This award recognizes a Community Leader who demonstrates a commitment to serving and advancing the LGBTQ+ community by having created or contributed significantly to the success of one or more local nonprofit organizations or community efforts.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Community Leader of the Year is Pastor Candace Hardnett of Agape Empowerment Ministries and Proud Savannah!
Next Gen Leader of the Year
This award is given to a young LGBTQ+ leader, professional, or entrepreneur who has demonstrated exceptional performance and an innovative drive that has benefited their organization and the LGBTQ+ community.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Next Gen Leader of the Year is Atlanta City Council member, Liliana Bakhtiari!
Nonprofit of the Year
This award is given to a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly in order to positively impact the health, happiness, and general welfare of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Nonprofit of the Year is THRIVE SS!
Corporate Ally of the Year
This award is given to the Corporate Partner or Member that has shown exemplary support to the LGBTQ+ business community and to OUT Georgia Business Alliance. As a corporation, the nominee has taken a leadership role in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace; demonstrates a high level of corporate social responsibility in the community; and supports their employee diversity of LGBTQ Employee Resource Group.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Corporate Ally of the Year is Bank of America!
New Business of the Year
This award is presented to the LGBTQ-owned small business that is less than two years old and already building a track record of excellence, innovation, and impact.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 New Business of the Year is T.R.A.N.S.parent Life Conversations!
Small Business of the Year
This award is given to the LGBTQ-owned small business in the community that has shown exemplary support to the LGBTQ+ business community and to the OUT Georgia Business Alliance.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Small Business of the Year is The Bohemian Den!
Member of the Year
This award is presented to the LGBTQ+ or allied entrepreneur or professional who has shown innovation in their business practices resulting in the advancement of their organization. In addition, this award recipient will also have advanced the mission, goals, and purpose of OUT Georgia Business Alliance, resulting in a positive impact for the LGBTQ+ business community.
OUT Georgia’s 2022 Member of the Year is Miko Evans of Meak Productions, Inc!
OUT Georgia thanks Amazon for serving as Presenting Sponsor of the 2022 Community Honors Celebration, and we express our gratitude to the many organizations that invested in the experience, including Cox Enterprises, Visa, AARP Georgia, AlphaGraphics Dunwoody – Sandy Springs, Authentique Agency, Creative Approach, Fleetcor, Oma Fertility, United Way of Greater Atlanta, APG Emerging Tech, Discover DeKalb, Van Allen Strategies, and YEAHBUZZY!
About OUT Georgia Business Alliance
OUT Georgia Business Alliance proudly serves as Georgia’s only LGBTQ+ and Allied Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1994, OUT Georgia Business Alliance (formerly the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) has served the LGBTQ+ and Allied business community by advocating for the most inclusive and equitable business environment; providing support and resources to fuel economic growth; and driving meaningful community connections and impact across the State of Georgia.
OUT Georgia Business Alliance is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., and is a proud affiliate of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact us at OUTGeorgia.org or info@OUTGeorgia.org.