Yes Virginia, There Still is a Delta Foundation

My Highs and one Low of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ Community in 2022

The former offices of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh stand abandoned and crumbling.

What would the end of the year be without a look back at the best and worst of our community in 2022? Let’s make one thing clear: I am completely biased. With well over 40 years of community service, I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. I can’t say that we have the most cohesive LGBTQ Community here in Pittsburgh but it is clear that our community is finally, slowly growing and emerging now that we are no longer overshadowed by that 800-pound gorilla foundation bullying everyone else. It is nice to see and it gives me hope for 2023.

If you can’t wait, jump to the honorable mentions or the worst of 2022.

Let’s start out with some great strides that the Pittsburgh LGBTQ Community took this year. Here are the tops:

#1:  Pittsburgh Pride & Pride Season

Billy Porter grand marshals the 2022 Pittsburgh Pride march and parade across the historic Andy Warhol Bridge. Photo by Anastasia Alexander.

Pittsburgh Pride returned with Billy Porter as the Grand Marshal.  THANK YOU to hometown hero Billy Porter for enthusiastically participating in Pittsburgh Pride this year.  KUDO’s to the Pittsburgh Pride Group for expanding Pride and making it much more Community focused and representative — not to mention completely affordable for vendors and participants. Rumor has it that floats and vehicles will return to the parade next year.

It was so great to see all the new and returning Pride events that happened all around our area in June. It was quite a fun yet exhausting month full of rainbows.  I was thrilled to be at as many festivals as possible and meet everyone.

Look out for Pittsburgh Pride 2023 news early next year!

#2:  QBurgh wins lawsuit protecting “Pittsburgh Pride”

Yet another lame tactic by the not-dead-yet Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh to try to hold our community hostage by attempting to trademark the term “Pittsburgh Pride.”  Nobody owns Pride. Pride belongs to the people. Period. When it became public that the Delta Foundation was trying to own Pride, QBurgh sued them over it. I’m glad we stood up to them. It was worth every penny.

#3:  Hugh Lane Wellness expands into East Liberty.

Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation has opened a second location in East Liberty.

Nothing makes me prouder than to see the success of the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation.  Sara Rosso and the folks there are truly remarkable in their ability to keep giving and it’s no wonder that they needed more space. When there is a lot of love in your heart it shows. Keep in mind their food pantry is always in need of supplies. I’m looking forward to 2023 and what the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation brings next. 

#4:  Outrageous Bingo turns 25.

Often imitated but never defeated, Outrageous Bingo remains a staple in the LGBTQ Pittsburgh Community events calendar.  Congratulations to Shepherd Wellness Center and the Pittsburgh Equality Center, but most importantly, congratulations goes to the host and chief ball caller Rick Allison. He’s been there the entire 25-year span.  We are told that the bingo has raised over $2.5 million over the course of 25 years.  Wow!  That’s OUTRAGEIOUS! (sorry..had to).   As an essential fundraiser for both organizations, we hope that bingo continues for at least another 25 years.

#5:  QMNTY Center Opens!

Photo by Chad Isaiah.

A huge shout out to both Proud Haven and TransYOUniting for partnering together to open their new shared space at 525 East Ohio Street on the North Side.  The space not only serves as the offices for Proud Haven and TransYOUniting but also a safe drop-in space for our queer youth.  If you haven’t heard of Proud Haven or TransYOUniting then please check them out here.  Kudos to Lyndsey Sickler and Dena Stanley.  You both are incredible people and community advocates and your hard work is evident.  Much success in 2023! 

Before I get on to the bad stuff, here are some honorable mentions: 

John Fetterman for being elected as our new Senator. Senator-elect Fetterman has been a long-time ally for us.  This was a huge win. Huge. I’m sure that we will continue to see his involvement not only in our community but also his appearance at the Pittsburgh Pride parade is always a welcome sight.  And who doesn’t love Gisele?  She was a fantastic Pennsylvania Second Lady and I would like to see her run for office someday herself.  Thank you to both of them for their continuing support. 

Maria Montaño for being appointed as Mayor Gainey’s Press Secretary.  Maria Montaño is the first trans woman to serve as Press Secretary for the City of Pittsburgh.  Wonderful news and much deserved.

Congratulations to Berwyn Clark and Fred Peterson for celebrating 50 years together.  I’ve known Berwyn and Fred for 38 of those years when they moved to Pittsburgh and joined the bowling league.  They were a great role model at a time when we didn’t have many gay couple role models to look up to. And trust me when I say that they are still as much in love today as they were back then. Kudos to Berwyn and Fred!

I’m sure you doom-scrolled to the bottom to get to the bad news and juicy stuff. So here it is: the WORST thing of 2022 goes to something that actually didn’t happen. The dissolution of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh still hasn’t happened.

The Delta Foundation still exists.

Christine Bryan, Edward McAndrews, Jon Holmes, and Martin Healey; employee and board of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh.

This should come as no surprise. There is no indication that the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has any intention of dissolving. The only comment that the community has received from them was “we have been advised by our lawyers not to say anything.”  Of course, they would say that.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has been guided by lawyers since right before the pandemic when Gary Van Horn, Jr. resigned as President in 2020. The attorney’s fees for the Delta Foundation must be extremely high.  How sad is it that as Board Members they must consult with a lawyer to see if they are doing anything wrong? 

What’s hidden here is that all the money that was taken in for Pride 2020, which never happened, and all the proceeds from the sale of their building on the North Side ($632,531) is still unaccounted for.

Here’s a thought and follow this thread: In August 2020, the Delta Foundation elected a new President who was at the same time the President of the Board of Persad Center. Months later he suddenly became the paid Chief Executive Officer of Persad. Could that thread of events shed some light on where, possibly, the money went?

Additionally, how odd is it that the Delta Foundation’s Director of Marketing and Development became the Director of Communications and Development for the Persad Center? Has the Persad Center now become the depository for all things bad from the Delta Foundation?

We have all waited long enough for the Delta Foundation to come clean and give account for the money that they have taken from our community which now after all this time appears to be stolen. If it wasn’t stolen then certainly the money would be faithfully returned to the community where it belongs rather than for the self-interest of the President of the Delta Foundation. I hope that some pressure can be put on not only the Delta Foundation Board but also the Board of Persad Center

I’m seeing something that is very sadly happening in today’s world of nonprofit board politics.  When you serve on a Board you take a fiduciary responsibility for the wellness of that organization.  When you serve on two Boards and those responsibilities are conflicted then you should excuse yourself from anything financial to either one and be very transparent in your activities.  Neither of these has happened here. 

I am curious to know if the current Persad Board is even aware of the activities of its paid employees.  Perhaps they have been misled just like the Delta Foundation Board was. There are similarities and I hope that each Persad Board member takes this opportunity to ask questions and even ask for a full outside audit of their books. Simply asking for the banking transactions is well within a Board Member’s authority. Personally, I would start with the attorney’s fees and bills for the past three years.

The Persad Center is one of our country’s longest-serving LGBTQ health centers. We should be able to take pride that Pittsburgh has such a legacy. I respect Randy Forrester and Jim Huggins, the founders of Persad, more than you can know. They were my mentors growing up. If anything, I feel like I’m honoring them, and I must do what I can to protect Persad Center from this influx of bad influences.

The fact is that there is no denying there has been a lot of chaos and it is strange that a lot of Persad’s financial problems went away after it got ahold of the Delta Foundation’s cash.  The Persad Center is worth defending. I’m frightened and afraid that the same shade of “Delta dealings” have been at play at the Persad Center as well.  It’s a new age of Board Management and it isn’t flattering.

My wish for 2023 is that the dust finally settles on the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh once and for all and that the Persad Center can become respectable and accountable to the community again. Time will tell.

Jeff Freedman (he/him) is a Pittsburgh native and is in his fourth decade of volunteerism for the LGBTQ Community.  Jeff is one of the founding members of the Steel City Softball League in 1981 and has been an active member of the LGBTQ Community ever since.  Jeff is currently a member of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission for LGBTQ Affairs.  He is a past Chair of the Pittsburgh Pride celebrations (’05-’07) and current Pittsburgh Pride March & Parade Co-Chair.  You would recognize him by his voice.  He was the loud one on the megaphone lining up all the March & Parade participants.  Jeff has a lot of great stories to tell and looks forward to sharing the printable ones with the QBurgh Community.