See photos from the grand opening.
Bruce Joffe sat contently behind a desk Saturday as more than 100 people wandered through the new LGBT Center he opened on Junction Avenue in Racine. The crowd was actually down from the 200-some that gathered outside of the center earlier to hear speeches and officially open the city's first center dedicated to the gay community.
It was impressive morning for Joffe. Not only had he managed to open the center, but he opened it with the strong support of some of the area's leading politicians. Mayor Tom Friedel, five mayoral candidates, State Sen. John Lehman, State Rep. Cory Mason and several aldermen were on hand to celebrate the center's opening.
But perhaps most impressive, one guest noted, was there was no opposition to the center. No one protested out front or caused problems inside. People who did attend were overwhelmingly positive about the center and its potential.
Joffe noted the center already had 87 individuals, families or corporations join as members, and another stack of emails from people who have expressed interest. The center also has a robust schedule of events planned for the next two months (see the daily schedule and upcoming events here.)
Ray Vahey, president of Center Advocates Inc. in Milwaukee, a group working for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of Wisconsin, attended the opening.
"It's a wonderful thing you've done here," Vahey told Joffe.
The center itself is nicely refurbished. It's decorated with art, including a small gallery in the back of the center. There's also a large flat-screen TV to show movies or just to watch television.
The building's exterior was cleaned up as required by the city's condition-use permit, which drew some opposition back in December.
But on Saturday, the center only drew support from the community.