Project Pride SRQ’s first year as a nonprofit was unique. The organization officially launched in 2020 to unite Sarasota’s LGBTQ community with its allies, seeking to celebrate inclusivity through events open to all. That mission quickly evolved in response to COVID-19.
While its introduction to the community was largely spent “under the dark cloud of a global pandemic,” Project Pride SRQ Co-Founder Katie McCurry says she’s grateful that the organization still made a difference. Its leadership hosted a variety of LGBTQ-focused virtual experiences, led a socially-distanced car parade for Pride Month and partnered with other nonprofits to provide food and supplies for those most in need throughout the year.
“Despite operating under these conditions,” McCurry says, “the significant impact we have had on the community as a whole coupled with how we have been embraced by so many of its residents, reinforces the importance of our mission both today and for the future.”
That future looks bright. Project Pride’s 10-person board, of which she now serves as secretary, continues its work to celebrate, unite and support marginalized communities throughout Sarasota. She says one of the unexpected but natural extensions of that purpose materialized Dec. 13 with “The Brunch Show,” a web series broadcasting monthly on Facebook and YouTube throughout 2021.
“‘The Brunch Show’ will act as a catalyst for connecting our community through an innovative and immersive web series,” Project Pride officially describes their venture. “This series provides an opportunity for our community to engage in topical conversations with one another in a relaxed talk show setting.
“Expect smart conversation on relevant topics that affect our lives,” they continue. “From managing stress over COVID and the holidays to celebrating our diverse community, ‘The Brunch Show’ promises to deliver information you can use and ideas to share while promoting collaboration and supporting one another. And we’ll have some fun too!”
“When we formed Project Pride SRQ we did not envision creating ‘The Brunch Show,’” McCurry explains. “It is another example of our nimbleness in responding to the changing needs and methods used to support the community.”
The year-long endeavor is presented in partnership with The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, which for more than 40 years has connected nonprofits with donors to create positive change. Its 2020 Giving Challenge raised $18.4 million for nearly 700 of them last April, including a number of Sarasota’s other LGBTQ-focused organizations.
“We were able to create the show because of their grant, which is really special,” Project Pride President Jordan Letschert reflects. “They don’t typically give grants to organizations until they’ve been around for two years – but they liked the idea of what we were doing so much that they gave it to us out of their operating budget within our first six months.”
Community Foundation of Sarasota County Vice President of Strategy and Communications Mischa Kirby says they offered their support because the foundation is “committed to improving the lives of all people,” noting that “we believe the strength of our community is in its diversity.”
“That is why we are proud to partner with Project Pride SRQ in bringing together an assortment of voices, perspectives and experiences from our LGBTQ+ community and beyond,” she continues. “By listening and learning from one another, we continue building a community that strives to address issues and create opportunities for everyone to belong.”
That’s the show’s goal. “It came about in part to feature a fun way for people to have a virtual connection,” Letschert says, “but to also start tackling some of the larger issues society is facing. We’ll be featuring medical and mental health experts and discussing COVID, diversity in the workplace, development of the city of Sarasota and more.”
To help do that, Project Pride leveraged the expertise of broadcast journalism veteran Bob Timm, who serves as director. His production company Opix Media, a proud sponsor, offers decades of experience in live television, storytelling and content creation, along with an impressive array of professional equipment.
“Bob is an Emmy Award-winning producer and director who has offered his time for this project,” Letschert explains. “The set that’s been built for the show, the technology and time that he’s donating, it’s been amazing.”
Timm calls his involvement a labor of love, the perfect marriage of his dedication to the craft and his support for Project Pride’s mission. “I enjoy doing this work and I’m thrilled that I can be doing it for Project Pride,” he says. “LGBTQ visibility in a community is very important.
“I wanted to bring my experience and knowledge to the organization to create a show that would be on the same level as broadcast programming in this market,” he continues. “I believe that’s what we did.”
“The Brunch Show” production team – which in addition to Timm, McCurry and Letschert includes fellow producer Brian Craft and marketer Craig Kaplan– has already filmed the series’ first three episodes. Each features series host and fan favorite Tampa Bay entertainer Matthew McGee, who Timm calls “a tremendous talent and a delight to work with.”
“A childhood dream of mine was to host a talk show like Sally Jesse Raphael or Rosie O’Donnell,” McGee says. “I was fascinated with the idea of a morning show where I could just be myself and chat with guests.
“While I’ve filled in for many local daytime shows like ‘Morning Blend,’ ‘Daytime’ and ‘Suncoast View,’ Project Pride has given me a marvelous opportunity to host a show that highlights our community in a positive way,” he continues. “I was happy to be approached about it and look forward to what’s on the horizon for ‘The Brunch Show.’”
The episodes were shot on location at The Harvest Sarasota, an LGBTQ-inclusive church. Guests who opted not to partake in the episode remotely were escorted in and out of the building to minimize crowding, while everyone involved adhered to COVID-19 safety precautions.
“That’s why it isn’t streamed live,” Letschert notes. “We’re able to have one person come in, film their segment and leave – then have the next person come in to film their segment and leave. We’re following all of the CDC guidelines.”
Fittingly, the initial episode focused on navigating the holiday season during the pandemic. McGee discussed a number of topics with subject matter experts, welcoming CAN Community Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Tanya Schreibman, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and transgender health specialist Heather Dawn as well as Harvest Sarasota Pastor Dan Minor.
Craft, who doubles as an on-air personality, also introduced the first recurring Bartender of the Month segment during the premiere. That and similar features will be filmed at locations throughout Sarasota to promote LGBTQ and ally businesses alike.
“It has been such a rewarding experience working on ‘The Brunch Show,’” Craft says. “It is the ideal catalyst for our community to be able to stay connected and gain insights from some of our most gripping leaders.
“The whole goal of the show goes back to our mission at Project PRIDE SRQ, which is to celebrate, support, and unite our community,” he adds. “This is the perfect platform to do so!”
To learn more about the organization, series or to watch archived episodes, visit ProjectPrideSRQ.org.