(HMI), the nation's oldest and largest organization dedicated to enriching the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to ensure they reach their full potential, is about to host the 20th anniversary of its signature Hamptons soiree, School's Out
, in East Hampton on Saturday, June 16. The fête will commence with cocktails, followed by a sit-down dinner.
We caught up with Thomas Krever, Chief Executive Officer, to learn more about this year's benefit, HMI milestones, the organization's future, and more.
How long have you been with HMI?
I've been with the organization since 2003 and have been at the helm leading it since 2007.
What does the organization consider some of its biggest accomplishments throughout the years?
There's Harvey Milk High School
- really making that a successful transfer public high school, especially in 2003 when I first got here. To redesign it and have it ready for it to stand on its own, again as a transfer public high school - that was huge. Another amazing milestone is the creation of our Advocacy & Compassion Building department, where we bring our work now and we've literally trained over 1,000 different individuals, groups, organizations, people from different nations, people from other countries on how they can serve LGBTQ youth. Another huge milestone is the creation of a whole new non-profit called HMI New Jersey. So we're actually the first LGBTQ organization to go federated - meaning we have boots on the ground, wrap around services under the federated model - similar to say a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club - across state lines, so comprehensive services. That's another big thing we're really proud of.
How has HMI programming and services expanded?
One of the things we've done is really reinvigorate our homeless youth and street outreach program. So, for instance, we have staff that walk the streets across all five boroughs looking for LGBTQ or straight allied people who are either homeless or housing distressed. We reinvigorated our pantry services, our hot showers, our food program, our clothing and laundry services - those have grown tremendously. Our job readiness program - we now offer specifically for young trans identified or gender nonconforming young people a job readiness program that focuses on the unique challenges that they face in the workplace and so building their resiliencies and equipping them with the skills that they need to navigate the reality of a country that still does not have federal protections. That's something else that we've done. Another wonderful expansion of our program is really moving forward with what used to be called the GED, but now it's called the High School Equivalency - so a program that successfully works with young people that have dropped out of high school - usually because of bullying and harassment and safety concerns, and then helping them get back on track, graduate with a diploma, and go on to college. Those are just some of the highlights that we're incredibly proud of and we have a lot more coming within the next few years.
Speaking of the future, where do you see HMI in 20 years?
First, in our own kind of homebase, 2 Astor Place, we're actually beginning the exploration of a medical suite - mind, body and spirit. A place where young people can come to receive medical services, as well as psychiatric and mental health counseling. It's really scary and intimidating to walk into hospitals or medical spaces, especially when you don't know anyone or have a familiar face waiting for you. So that's absolutely one of our future plans within our space. We also want to continue to further our national expansion and so we have taken all the services and programs that we provide and put them in what we call the HMI Milieu Model, which is a how to or blueprint that other organizations can use to implement HMI's best practices and promising practices in serving LGBTQ youth. We're really excited about that. I think that there's obviously a need and a lot of communities that love their young people, but just don't have the wherewithal, the curriculum, the resources, and so, why reinvent the wheel when you have HMI - the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ youth service organization at the ready and more willing, excited to share our lessons learned and best practices?
You'll be hosting School's Out in the Hamptons soon? How have proceeds from that event impacted the organization?
It's actually one of our most important events because the summer months, historically, funding dries up. Individual donors, for instance, they go away, they check out, they rest and recuperate themselves. Federal and public grants tend to dry up because it's the summer months so the cycles end in preparation for the new fiscal years. So things ramp up in the fall, but we know in the summer, especially since schools are closed and a lot of programs are not running, and so LGBTQ - like any other young person - needs structure, needs activities. So, this singular event helps fund and support our programs throughout the summer months. It's incredibly important and as we continue to grow, we're seeing now several thousand people a year through direct service or through our homeless youth or other outreach programs, it's more vital than ever that this program is successful and it's successful to generate the funds to sustain us through the summer months.
Tell me a little bit about this year's benefit.
We're really, really excited! It's once again at the home of Lisa and James Cohen. We're really thrilled and honored to have them host us again. We're really proud of our host committee - which includes Martha Stewart
, the Cohens, Tracy Anderson, and others. And so we're really getting the community involved. We'll have both a cocktail reception and a dinner afterwards at their home. MINI Cooper comes in, and again is helping us support the programming for the evening. Hopefully Martha's going to do what she did last year and cook us up some paella. The food is being donated by Lulu Kitchen - so having the local support means the world to us. I think it's going to be all around an amazing event.
And I hear Martha's actually going to be doing the flowers.
That's really cool. It adds a layer of hip, cool, and chic to a really important event that's doing some really good work.
Is there anything new?
Having Lulu Kitchen come in and being able to share their food, Martha doing the flowers that's new as well. I think there's going to be a lot of visual and culinary stimulation there. The fact that it's our 20th - we're trying to find the balance between things that are new and exciting, but also honoring and recognizing the people before us and their legacies so that this could even be possible and so "bringing them home" so to speak.
Tickets to School's Out start at $375.
For more information, visit www.hmi.org.
Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com