Since 1996, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative has helped local women address a variety of health issues, from cancer to general wellness. The organization’s annual Fall Garden Party helps make those programs possible, while also providing one of the most popular lesbian social events of the year.
Last year’s Garden Party drew more than 350 women and men, and raised over $40,000 for ALHI. This year’s event, set for Sept. 18 at Einstein’s, hopes to surpass that goal.
“This year’s Garden Party is more important than ever,” says ALHI Executive Director Linda Ellis. “We’re at a point where we can see incredible opportunities to expand our programs and outreach through partnerships with local healthcare systems and public health departments, but everything is on hold right now as funders, both public and private, figure out how much or if they’ll have funds to share.
“The income from the Garden Party allows us to keep going while we work through those other possibilities,” she says.
ALHI currently offers support groups for women dealing with cancer, caring for elders, domestic violence and Weight Watchers. The Initiative also offers an online health assessment, LGBT-friendly physician directory, breast health education and the Lesbian Health Fund, which provides access to health screenings for under and uninsured women.
The Garden Party features cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live music from Kristin Hope Justice, a silent auction and a raffle for a nine-day vacation package in Costa Rica. Advance tickets are $50; raffle tickets are $20 or six for $100.
It also includes the presentation of ALHI’s Healing Angel Award, which this year goes to Dr. Patrick Coleman of Piedmont Healthcare. Coleman was the first doctor to volunteer for ALHI’s initial Community Health Fair in 2009, and has worked with Piedmont to address LGBT health disparities.
“Dr. Patrick Coleman is an amazing man, and we’re proud to honor his as this year’s Healing Angel. He has, from our very first health fair, been there to do anything we ask of him,” Ellis says, recalling early health fairs where breast exams conducted in a copy room discovered two suspicious lumps that required follow-up tests.
On Oct. 22, Coleman’s office in Atlantic Station will host ALHI’s first off-site Community Health Fair, which Ellis says “greatly increases both our professionalism and our capacity to do full screenings, including pap smears and prostate exams.”
“Helping uninsured LGBT individuals access screenings and affordable healthcare has become the most important work we do,” she says. “Patrick has been a significant part of the effort.”
Ellis also promises “important news” at the Garden Party.
“Without revealing too much right now, I will say that the year ahead will be an important one for ALHI. We’ll be sharing some important news at the Garden Party that we believe will allow us to impact the health of our community at a whole new level,” she says.