Twenty-eight years ago the Los Angeles LGBT Center moved from a rather dilapidated old motel and into a newly renovated 4,400-square-foot building in Hollywood. Along with that newly operational space came a new executive director and the promise of a new future and direction for the Center, which since 1969 had cared for, championed, and celebrated LGBTQ individuals and families in the Southland.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade Wednesday, LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean marveled at the journey for the center she has headed for so long and is now preparing to hand off its primary leadership role of- but also at her personal journey.
Along the way the Center has grown, expanding to a nearly two-block campus along with an additional 10 sites around the Los Angeles metroplex. Jean initially served as the Center's executive director from 1993 to 1999. She returned as CEO in 2003. She announced last September that she would be stepping down in July 2022.
In addition to her role at the LA Center, Jean played a critical role as a co-founder in 1994 of CenterLink, a member-based coalition to support the development of strong, sustainable, LGBTQ community centers across the United States, a role Jean is proud of, she told the Blade.
Reflecting on the role CenterLink has played, Jean noted that what was once around 65 LGBTQ community centers has grown into 270 centers.
"If you look at legislative efforts or LGBTQ rights that have been expanded, there is usually a strong and stable LGBTQ center. They are the engines of the LGBTQ movement," she said. "They assist fostering change."
Jean expressed her gratitude to the board of directors of the Center, not only for its leadership, fundraising, and oversight, but for allowing a lengthy transition overlap period between herself and the her designated successor, Joe Hollendoner, the current CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Hollendoner's selection capped a four-month national search completed by Koya Partners that sought candidates from government, business, and a wide range of non-profit organizations.
Hollendoner has led San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) since 2016. During his tenure, he spearheaded the adoption of a new five-year strategic plan in 2019 that prioritized the expansion of health and social services and established racial justice as a fundamental principle to guide the organization's growth.
During his nearly five years at SFAF, he has grown revenue by 84 percent and significantly increased corporate and private donations to support the organization's life-saving services.
Growing revenue, Jean wryly noted, is critical in a multi-million dollar a year operation with nearly 800 employees that provide services for more LGBTQ people than any other organization globally.
"When you consider that [the Center] offers programs, services, and global advocacy spanning healthcare, social services and housing, with emphasis on LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth — especially the homeless — a board and a director with fundraising skills are crucial," she said.
"Joe is faced with an escalating demand for LGBTQ senior services when he takes over, also expansion of the LGBTQ youth programs," Jean noted. "There's a tidal wave of increased numbers of LGBTQ seniors. We've learned that in many cases they are more isolated, poorer than before with no family and no support. Joe and the Center will have their work cut out for them," she added.
Jean's successor has been part of the LGBTQ movement since coming out as gay at the age of 16. With nearly 25 years of movement leadership, he has proven himself to be a trusted collaborator and ally to all members of the LGBTQ community.
Prior to taking the leadership role at SFAF, Hollendoner was chief of staff and first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health, the nation's third-largest health department.
From 2001 to 2012, he served in several roles at Howard Brown Health, the Midwest's largest LGBTQ health organization, and ultimately became its vice president and chief program officer. Among his many achievements while he was at Howard Brown, Hollendoner was one of the founders of Broadway Youth Center (BYC), a comprehensive health and social services center for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.
In recognition of this leadership in the creation of the BYC, he was named a Community Health Leader by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2010.
"Joe clearly understands this moment and has a clear vision for the Center's future and for that of our community. His commitment to dismantling systemic racism is in his bones and he will lead with this commitment as the Center's new CEO," said David Bailey, co-chair of the board of directors for the Center.
During the one-year transition period, Hollendoner will work alongside Jean, who is one of the longest-tenured leaders in the LGBTQ movement.
"I am delighted that the board selected Joe," Jean said. "He has been an extraordinary leader at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, with whom we partner on the AIDS LifeCycle. I've seen him in action and watched him grow the Foundation and infuse his progressive values throughout its work. I respect him, I like him, and there is zero doubt in my mind that Joe will become a successful and powerful leader of the Los Angeles LGBT Center."
Effusive praise for Jean herself came as the news broke as to the selection of her successor Wednesday from lawmakers and California's largest advocacy organization, Equality California.
The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Assemblyman Evan Low and Vice Chair Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman issued a joint statement on transition of power at the Los Angeles LGBT Center Wednesday:
"It is impossible to encapsulate Lorri Jean's full impact on the LGBTQ community, but she has been a pioneer and a force to be reckoned with during her four-plus decades of advocacy. Lorri Jean will leave the Los Angeles LGBT Center as one of the most influential people to ever take up the fight for equality, and we're especially grateful for the way she has shepherded the Los Angeles LGBT Center into a world-renowned organization.
"Under her stewardship, the center now has multiple campuses, a fully functional health care center and pharmacy, transitional housing, and a retail café that is staffed by graduates of the center's culinary arts program —and all of this barely scratches the surface of Lorri Jean's accomplishments.
"We wish her the best as she moves closer to retirement, knowing full well that her legacy of saving lives and empowering members of the LGBTQ+ community will endure for generations to come. We also look forward to continuing our work with incoming Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner, who has been exceptional during his time with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. We have no doubt Joe will build upon the incredible foundation Lorri Jean has put in place."
State Sen. Scott Wiener, former chair of the LGBTQ Caucus who represents San Francisco told the Blade in an email, "Joe Hollendoner is an extraordinary leader for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and we're lucky to have him as a leader in our community. San Francisco's loss is Los Angeles's gain. Joe will be a true asset to the Los Angeles LGBT Center."
Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur told the Blade: "Under Joe Hollendoner's leadership, San Francisco AIDS Foundation has been an incredible partner in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, increase access to life-saving HIV medication and address longstanding disparities in health and well-being faced by people living with HIV."
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.