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Fundraiser Held To Benefit LGBT Youth Center Destroyed By Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fundraiser was held Sunday for a drop-in center in Chelsea for LGBT youth, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy two weeks ago.

The 1,200 square-foot Ali Forney Center drop-in facility at 527 W. 22nd St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, was inundated by 4 feet of water during the storm. A week ago Friday, staff were able to inspect the damage, and said, "Our worst fears were realized; everything was destroyed and the space is uninhabitable."

Phones, computers, the refrigerator and food supplies were all destroyed, the Ali Forney Center said.

"This is a terrible tragedy for the homeless LGBT youth we serve there. This space was dedicated to our most vulnerable kids, the thousands stranded on the streets without shelter, and was a place where they received food, showers, clothing, medical care, HIV testing and treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services -- basically a lifeline for LGBT kids whose lives are in danger," Ali Forney Center executive director Carl Siciliano said in a news release on the Web site for the organization.

The facility opened seven years ago, and served as a place of refuge for gay and lesbian youth who were "reeling from being thrown away by their parents for being LGBT," Siciliano said in the statement. It was often the youths' firs experience with a loving LGBT community, he said.

"It is heartbreaking to see this space come to such a sad end," he said in the statement.

But help has been forthcoming for the Ali Forney Center. On Sunday, actress Ally Sheedy and celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz hosted a fundraiser at the Industry Bar, 355 W. 22nd St., to benefit the facility, according to Gay City News. Ali Forney Board member Bill Shea and his husband, Frank Selvaggi, offered a matching donation of up to $50,000 for the fundraiser, the publication reported.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported a post on the blog "Joe. My. God." about the damage at the Ali Forney facility led actress Pam Grier to tweet a link, which in turn generated donations totaling $100,000 to the center, according to Gay City News.

The drop-in center has been relocated temporarily to the LGBT Community Services Center, at 208 W. 13th St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues. It is open between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The Ali Forney Center also houses 20 youths in four transitional living sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and provides emergency shelter for up to six months for 50 youths at four other sites in Brooklyn and Queens, according to Gay City News.

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