This is the fifth year for the event, and Center officials say it has quickly become one of Toledo’s most anticipated parties of the year. “Last year we had about 300 people turn out for the event,” said Michael P. Marsh, Vice President, Development and Public Relations for the non-profit agency, “and judging by the positive response, this year is bound to be bigger and better. People are really excited about the event and talking it up to their friends.”
The Center began hosting fund raisers a few years ago as a way to offset cuts in government funding. "We’ve experienced a decline in government grants by over 50% in the last few years. Our fund raisers are a way to help make up the difference and ensure that we can provide services for our clients,” explained Mr. Marsh. Over the years, the Center has hosted auctions, awards ceremonies, and even brought NAACP Chairman Julian Bond to town.
“A few years ago, we decided it was time to have a party—something that people could really get excited about going to,” explained Mr. Marsh. “This has become our signature event, and it’s a way for us to celebrate equal opportunity and recognize the many different cultures that make up not only New Orleans and Toledo, but…nation as a whole,” he added.
This year will be even more special considering the devastation that the Gulf Coast faced during the 2005 hurricane season. “We want to show our support to the people of that great region of our country as they work hard to build up their neighborhoods after the great losses they suffered,” he added. The event promises to be a fun filled evening with dancing to the sounds of the KGB Motown band.
A local celebrity master of ceremonies will oversee a costume contest. Strolling magician Martin Jarret will do magic tricks, Astrologer Janet Amid will give readings, and guests will be encouraged to bid on items from local artists and businesses as well as national celebrities during a silent auction.
The Women of the Old West End and several other concerned citizens and organizations established the Fair Housing Center in 1975 to combat discriminatory practices in housing that were destroying Toledo’s neighborhoods. Since its inception, the Center has investigated over 8,540 allegations of housing discrimination, recovered over $25.48 million in damages for the victims and demonstrated a talent for setting national precedents that have expanded housing opportunities for millions of Americans across the country.
According to Marsh, the Center provides services to a few hundred clients every year and also refers thousands of people to other agencies for assistance, when appropriate. “Sometimes we are the only place that people can turn to for help. We are grateful to the many donors and friends who make contributions and attend our events. They literally help us keep our doors open,” he said.
Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased by calling the Fair Housing Center at (419) 243-6163. The event will be held at Gumbo’s Bayou Grille at the Docks in International Park from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 23.