As the director of development for Charlie's Place at St. Margaret's, local folk-singer favorite Tom Goss has to keep his eye on the dollars that help D.C.'s homeless. And he's got plenty to be proud of. In 2011, for example, Charlie's Place served 15,320 meals and provided HIV/AIDS testing and counseling for 135 clients. That's just for starters.
While much of the thanks goes to Goss for his work at Charlie's Place, much of it also goes to the Centaur MC and Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend. Last year, the nonprofit weekend raised $16,000, which the Centaurs donated to Pets-DC, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive and the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago, along with Charlie's Place. That's on top of more than $1,000 the bootblacks at MAL 2011 raised in tips, which was split between D.C.'s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) and MAL's travel fund.
Centaur MC President Steve Ranger says charity began at home in the form of Brother, Help Thyself, formed by the leather community at a time when gifts from leatherfolk were less than appreciated.
''One of the reasons BHT was created is there were charities that would not take donations from kinky folk,'' says Ranger. Today, kinky cash is more than welcome. That doesn't necessarily means there's always so much to go around, but the Centaurs try to get the most bang for their benevolent bucks.
''What we generally do is once we see how much money we've made – or lost – we decide on the beneficiaries,'' Ranger explains. ''We wait to see how the books play out, then determine the number of charities. And there's no ceremony. We don't make people write grant applications. We just put a check in the mail. We get a 'thank you.' That's the extent of it.
''We like leather/kink charities," he continues, "but also small, local charities, where $4,000 or $5,000 is going to make an impact – like Pets-DC or HIPS.''
Meanwhile, Goss is more grateful than surprised that the services to the homeless provided by Charlie's Place have been augmented by the Centaurs' generosity. For one thing, Charlie's Place has already been aided by BHT. For another, Goss knows from firsthand experience that the MAL atmosphere is one of warmth and fellowship.
''I was a little nervous, but it was really fun,'' Goss says of dropping in on MAL one year. ''Everyone was just really open and honest about who they are. I found it really refreshing. They've been my most favorite community in a lot of ways, so open, honest and kind.''