March 28, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay & Lesbian Chamber honors locals

The Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) will honor six local business and community leaders on April 20 at its annual awards gala at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel, where it will also celebrate its 22nd anniversary, the group said in a statement.

“Each year the Chamber recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations that have contributed to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the LGBT community in the metro D.C. area,” the statement says. “Awardees display exemplary business success and have been strong leaders within the LGBT community based on philanthropy, advocacy and awareness.”

Recipients of this year’s awards include:

  • Excellence in Business Award — Chef Art Smith: Known as a celebrity chef, Smith served as personal chef to Oprah Winfrey for 10 years. He regularly appears on popular TV shows, authored three award-winning cookbooks, founded a non-profit group that teaches children about tolerance, and oversees the operation of several restaurants, including the D.C. restaurant Art and Soul.
  • Business Leadership Award — D.C. Allen, owner of the Crew Club, a gay-oriented gym and spa located in D.C.’s Logan Circle area on 14th Street, N.W. In opening the Crew Club in 1995 Allen has been credited with helping to revitalize the 14th Street corridor as a thriving neighborhood and business area. He has made the Crew Club available for on-site testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; funded a $40,000 advertising campaign in local LGBT media to promote awareness of a resurgence of syphilis, which has been credited with reducing the rate of syphilis infections among gay men in D.C. He has also supported the DC LGBT Community Center’s Took Kit safer sex campaign.
  • Emerging Entrepreneur Award — JD Warford DVM and Jessica Serensits-DC MetroVet: Warford and Serensits are business partners and spouses who operate a veterinary medicine business that specializes in veterinary house calls. They service more than 130 patients in D.C. and Maryland, with a large majority of their clients in the LGBT community. The two serve as volunteers with feral cat organizations, have plans for seminars for dog and cat owners and for helping the local group Pride of Pets.
  • Volunteer of the Year Award — June Crenshaw: An IT project manager for Coventry Health Care company, Crenshaw has been a volunteer at Whitman-Walker Health since the 1980s. She serves on the Whitman-Walker board and is a former board chair. She has served as board co-chair for Rainbow Response Coalition, a local group that addresses domestic violence in the LGBT community. She has also helped victims and survivors of domestic violence, rape and child abuse as a volunteer for more than six years with the local group Heartly House.
  • Community Advocacy Award — Joe Solmonese. For the past seven years Solmonese has served as president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. CAGLCC says that in addition to overseeing legislative and political efforts to advance LGBT rights on the national and state level, Solmonese played a key role in launching new programs and projects in the faith and business sectors.
  • Corporate Ally of the Year Award — Signal Financial Federal Credit Union. A long-time member of CAGLCC, Signal Financial has provided “consistent and valuable support” for CAGLCC’s programs and events, the group says. It has also “worked hard” to help CAGLCC members expand their businesses through loans, mortgages and merchant services.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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