Toledo Names Plaque Project Commemorates, Celebrates LGBTQ+ Community

Toledo nightclub and eatery, Georgjz419 hosted the annual Toledo Names Plaque Project fundraiser that memorialized deceased members of the Northwest Ohio LGBTQ+ community. 

In a celebration of life, the club hosted drag performances, raffles and served food and drinks to a crowd of attendees from 2 pm to 6 pm. Each purchase or tip received was accepted as a donation to fund adding additional names and plates to the project — over $1,000 was raised by the end of the night. 

Casey Clark, who performs as DJ3pm, has worked at Georgjz419 for the past 10 years entertaining crowds by playing various top songs and live music. He played a 3-hour set for the fundraiser and played songs that drag performers chose. 

He said he enjoyed playing his set and the audience was engaged throughout the event. 

“In general, the event was fantastic; It really put things in perspective,” Clark said. “I got a little emotional at the DJ booth by the end of the night by seeing all the drag performers up there doing their thing and doing what they love.”

Several drag shows were put on by the venue, with performers dancing to a roaring crowd and lively throwbacks played by Clark. Four performers took the stage that night: Betty Scottadick, Sylvia Austin, Patricia Holt and Claire Elliott. 

Jim Baird, who performed as Claire Elliot, has been performing in shows since 1984 and in the Chicago area since 2009. He’s known the organizers, Jan Keween and Joe Howe, for many years and said his favorite part of the night was when his photo was taken with the other performers underneath the plaque. 

“It’s funny because every time I look at that wall of names, I’ll see somebody who I’d forgotten about and it brings a smile to my face for a moment,” Baird said. “I can think of a story or something about when they were alive and what we were doing when we were younger. I think that’s part of the purpose: That people aren’t forgotten.”

The Names Plaque Project was created in 2017 after organizers Jan Keween and Joe Howe sparked a conversation while they were remembering a similar plaque that hung at a now-closed downtown bar named Hooterville Station. That plaque commemorated LGBTQ+ members who had passed from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

In collaboration with George Thompson, owner of Georgjz419, they later decided to revitalize the concept and expand the project to include any LGBTQ+ member who had passed in the region and host an annual fundraising event at the club. 

RELATED: The man behind Georgjz419

Howe said he believes the event was a success this year, despite accidentally scheduling the fundraiser during a big football game, which slightly impacted the crowd attendance. He said the fundraisers have always been held on Sunday, and he’s looking forward to planning for next year. 

While planning for next year, he will be working with Keween to incorporate the Toledo Names Plaque Project into a registered nonprofit organization. 

“We’re working toward becoming a 501c3 (nonprofit) because we have people who make donations in honor of a person whose name is going to be placed on a plaque, or a friend or a loved one of that person,” Howe said. “They do donations after the shows as well and we get those almost every year.”

Learn more at The Toledo Names Plaque Project on Facebook.

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