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The Fair Housing Center transformed the Pinnacle in Maumee into the French Quarter of New Orleans on Fat Tuesday, February 24. The Center hosted a Mardi Gras party complete with costumes, music by the KGB, a strolling magician, astrology readings, festive drinks, and, of course, Cajun food and Mardi Gras beads. Over 300 people attended the fund raiser, which netted over $16,000 for the Center s programs.

This was the third year for the event, and Center officials anticipate it growing into one of Toledo s most anticipated parties of the year. Judging by the positive response, each year is bound to be bigger and better. People are really excited about the event and talking it up to their friends, said Michael Marsh, Vice President, Development and Public Relations for the non-profit agency.

The Center began hosting fund raisers a few years ago as a way to offset cuts in government funding. We ve experienced a decline in government grants by over 50% in the last few years. Our fund raisers are a way to help make up the difference and ensure that we can provide services for our clients, explained Mr. Marsh.

Over the years, the Center has hosted auctions, awards ceremonies, and even brought NAACP Chairman Julian Bond to town. A couple years ago, we decided it was time to have a party something that people could really get excited about going to, and, since no one else seems to do a Mardi Gras theme party, we thought, why not? explained Mr. Marsh. This is becoming our signature event, and it s a way for us to celebrate equal opportunity and recognize the many different cultures that make up not only New Orleans and Toledo, but also our great nation as a whole, he added.

The event was a fun filled evening with dancing to the sounds of the KGB Motown band. In between sets we played New Orleans style music, he said. Local television personalities Jerry Anderson and Chrys Peterson served as masters of ceremonies and oversaw a costume contest. Strolling magician Martin Jarret performed magic tricks, Janet Amid gave astrology readings, and guests were encouraged to bid on items from local artists and businesses as well as national celebrities during a silent auction.

The Women of the Old West End and several other concerned citizens and organizations established the Fair Housing Center in 1975 to combat discriminatory practices in housing that were destroying Toledo s neighborhoods. Since its inception, the Center has investigated over 8,100 allegations of housing discrimination, recovered over $24.5 million in damages for the victims and demonstrated a talent for setting national precedents that have expanded housing opportunities for millions of Americans across the country.

According to Mr. Marsh, the Center provides services to a few hundred clients every year and also refers thousands of people to other agencies for assistance, when appropriate. Sometimes we are the only place that people can turn to for help.

We are grateful to the many donors and friends who make contributions and attend our events. They literally help us keep our doors open, he said.

Special thanks goes to the planning committee, ticket captains, auction donors and sponsors.

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