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First-Ever LGBT Senior Prom to be Held at William Way

By: Paige Cooperstein, Philadelphia Gay News

The ballroom of the William Way LGBT Community Center will be decked out in two historic rainbow banners and balloons next weekend.

Philadelphia’s first LGBT Senior Prom, slated for 7-10 p.m. Sept. 19, will feature the same banners that were wrapped around the John C. Anderson Apartments at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in February 2014. The banners have also been carried in the annual Mummers Parade.

Residents of the Anderson Apartments, seen as a national model of housing for low-income LGBT seniors, are helping to organize the prom, which is sponsored by the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia, William Way and the LGBT Elder Initiative.

“I’ve done a lot of really cool initiatives, but this one is my favorite,” said Phoenix Schneider, director of the LGBTQ Initiative at the JFCS. “It makes me giggle all the time. I love it.”

Schneider said he started talking about the prom six months ago with Anderson residents and planning got underway last month.

DJ Sandi Stabler, a veteran of places like Sneakers and Sisters, will spin music from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. There will be a punch bowl, photo booth, dance contest and tables set up for people to meet and mingle. Light refreshments will be served along with centerpieces made of Hershey Kisses.

The theme is “Turn Back Time: Reimagining Your Senior Prom.” Dress can run the gamut from casual to fancy. Guests will walk a red carpet on the way into the William Way ballroom.

“We’re going all out,” Schneider said. “We want to create a special experience for older adults. Some came out later in life and didn’t get to go to prom with their partner or hold their partner’s hand in high school.”

Tickets cost $5 in advance or $10 at the door. No one will be turned away if they can’t afford tickets. Schneider said some people have already purchased extra tickets to donate to people at the door.

Denny Samen and Elizabeth Williams are among the Anderson residents helping to put together the prom.

Williams was proud of the inclusion of the Anderson banners into the décor.

“We use it sparingly, usually only on special occasions,” she said.

She thought the prom was a special event because it encourages people to have a good time while building a sense of community in an LGBT-friendly space.

“This prom is definitely a pilot,” Schneider said. “I hope it will be an annual event.”

He added the JFCS also has reason to celebrate because the Human Rights Campaign is honoring the organization this month with its “All Children — All Families” seal of recognition for the commitment to supporting and serving LGBT youth and families. The JFCS is the first Jewish organization in the country to earn the recognition, Schneider said.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Phoenix Schneider at 267-256-2257 or