Padma Lakshi Hosts Ali Forney Place at the Table Gala

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Oct 23, 2013

Chef and author Padma Parvati Lakshmi will host the Ali Forney Center's "A Place at the Table" fundraiser, to help keep LGBT kids safe and off the street. Among those guests to be honored at the Oct. 25 event are political activist David Mixner, actress Isis King and philanthropist Frank Selvaggi, who recently donated funding to expand access to shelter for homeless youth that are at a very high risk of HIV infection.

"I am humbled to be honored and to assist the Ali Forney Center in any way I can as they do their life-saving work," said Selvaggi, who will be receiving the organization's highest honor. "AFC provides support and services to some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community and it is long overdue that we dedicate more resources and attention to LGBT youth homelessness."

After Hurricane Sandy destroyed AFC's headquarters, they teamed up with the Treatment Action Group (TAG) for a unique donor-driven partnership. The partnership was developed through the generosity of Selvaggi and Bill Shea, longtime activists and philanthropists, who donated $50K to the Ali Forney Center to support the housing development fund to expand access to shelter for homeless youth and $50K to fund a new policy coordinator staff position at TAG.

"Frank is a hero to so many of us for his tireless and selfless work on behalf of full equality, and especially his work bringing attention and resources to address the plight of LGBT homeless youth," said Mixner about his fellow honoree.

"The Ali Forney Center is once again moved by and grateful for the generosity of Frank Selvaggi and Bill Shea," said AFC Executive Director Carl Siciliano. "One of our most challenging tasks is providing support for youth clients that have tested positive for the HIV virus. In addition to the family rejection and numerous other challenges of surviving on the streets, finding out that they are HIV positive puts them at twice the risk of hospitalization for suicide attempts."

HIV is becoming increasingly prevalent among youth ages 13-24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 4 people infected with HIV are 13-24 years old. The vast majority are youths of color. In 2010, 1,000 new HIV infections occurred each month within this demographic. And with a lack of shelter, current HIV prevention efforts will not work.

"This is a policy doomed to failure," said Siciliano. "Nothing heightens the risk of homeless youth becoming infected with HIV more than the lack of shelter and nothing diminishes their risk behaviors more than providing them with shelter."

A success story, transgender actress and 2013 honoree Isis King was at one time a resident in the AFC transitional living program, Room and Board. She appeared in an MSNBC documentary about transgendered individuals in 2007, and later, Tyra Banks encouraged King to audition for Cycle 11 of "America’s Next Top Model." King was selected and became the first transwoman to compete on the show.

And first-time host but longtime supporter Lakshmi said she was happy to donate her time to the worthy cause.

"I’m honored to do my part to make sure everyone, including LGBT youth, feels safe and secure in our culture," said Lakshmi.

Selvaggi echoed this sentiment, saying, "My goal as an activist and a philanthropist is not only to do all I can to help make the world a better place for all LGBT people but to educate the community about this issue and the tremendous need for services, advocacy and engagement to support LGBT homeless youth."

"A Place at the Table" will be held at 6 p.m. on October 25 at Capitale NYC, 130 Bowery New York. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner and the awards presentation. For more information, visit

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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