The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and members and supporters gathered at Ole Red recently to pay tribute to the organization's founding and first year members.
Over two hundred guests and honored dignitaries enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by rainbow themed decor provided by Ron Sanford Productions and a beautiful tiered rainbow cake created by Twisted Fig Cake Designs. The event was generously sponsored by Dollar General, UBS, and Ole Red.
Nashville LGBT Chamber President Ron Snitker and CEO Lisa Howe welcomed the crowd and shared a brief history of the Chamber and their plans for the future. "Twenty years ago a small group of community members created the Nashville Association of Professional Persons, which evolved into the community stalwart we are today," said Snitker. "We continue the work today in appreciation of their time, vision, and courage it took to start an LGBT professionals group in 1998.”
The Chamber was honored to have Tennessee State Senator Jeff Yarbro in attendance. Yarbro has been a consistent advocate for LGBT rights and served on the Nashville Pride Board of Directors. Yarbro reflected on the great work the Chamber has done with the legislature, and expressed optimism about our continued work in the future.
"I'm thrilled to be here," he said. "Every elected official that's here wants to congratulate the Nashville LGBT Chamber on their 20th Anniversary. While we do face obstacles in the legislature, when I walk outside that chamber into this city, I know that we are winning. And a lot of the reason that we are winning is that the people in this room and this organization and what it's done over the last 20 years. We want to thank you for making our work easier. And for leading the way to make the legal protections that we are trying to do possible. We are thrilled to be a part of the work you do. Congratulations on your first 20 years. And we look forward to working with all of you in the next 20!"
The celebration honored founding members as well as generous donors that have helped make all the great work the Chamber has done possible. About 60 of the most consistent donors stood out from the crowd wearing lapel pins featuring the 20th Anniversary logo that the Chamber provided as an expression of appreciation. The Chamber also offered t-shirts featuring the same logo as a thank you for supporters so they can show their pride in the organization.
Elected officials present included Tennessee Senator Jeff Yarbro, Tennessee Senator Steve Dickerson, State Representative Bill Beck, State Representative Brenda Gilmore, Vice Mayor Sheri Weiner, Council Member Brett Withers, Council Member Nancy VanReece, Council Member Kathleen Murphy, Council Member Jeff Syracuse, At Large Council Member Jim Shulman, At Large Council Member Erica Gilmore, County Clerk Brenda Wynn, and Matt Wiltshire, Director, Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development.
Another highlight of the evening included a video presentation created by Snapshot Interactive featuring past presidents and founding members telling the story of the beginnings and growth over the last 20 years. As the membership has grown, so has the Chamber’s positive influence on the Nashville Business community as well as state and national policies addressing LGBT rights and workplace protections. The video wrapped up with a look toward the future with the ambitious tagline, “We’re just getting started!”
As further evidence of the Chamber’s progress over the years, outgoing CEO Lisa Howe shared with the crowd some of the Chamber's recent accomplishments. "For the first time, we are included in the Metro Budget," she said. "I want to thank the mayor, the vice mayor, the Metro Council members, and all of our members that advocated for us. We look forward to working with Metro and our partner chambers and to add to the pool of minority-owned businesses who are positioned to work with metro government."
"We've been very active in the work that went into the relocation of AllianceBernstein headquarters from New York City to Nashville, bringing over 1,000 jobs to the city next year," she added. "It just goes to show the influence the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce has on the local economy."
Finally, Howe expressed her appreciation for the Chamber on a personal level, saying "I want to personally thank the founders of this organization. I have watched this organization change people's lives, change workplaces, and policies and culture. It has impacted small business owners. The person this organization has impacted the most is me and my family, and I am forever grateful. And I hear we're just getting started!"