There are so many great charities and service groups out there that help our LGBTQ+ Community directly and indirectly. During its 25th year, Instinct and its writers will highlight some of those charities that are near and dear to us and some that may need a bigger spotlight placed upon them as they are fantastic, but everyone doesn’t know about them.
When you’re walking down The Drive in Wilton Manors, you’ll notice some of the great little businesses, restaurants, bars, and residences. One of the newest additions along The Drive is the Wilton Collective.
Now if you’re just in the gear to find a man or your next drink, you may miss the Wilton Collective, but to those that are looking for the whole “one of the best gayborhoods in the world” experience, check out The Collective as it is an integral part of what Wilton Manors is and the experience may just change you forever.
When walking by The Wilton Collective, yes, the mural is striking and the colorful items in the window will draw you in, and if you’re waking by on a Friday night, the entertainment and drinks might pull you in deeper with their Friday Night Mixer.
The Wilton Collective is run by Julian’s Fountain of Youth (JFOY), a nonprofit charitable organization that is managed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to creating opportunities for our LGBTQ+ Youth to reach their full potential through community involvement and experiential learning.
From the JFOY website, the Mission Statement is:
To enrich, empower and educate our LGBTQ+ youth and to challenge them beyond their normal comfort level to discover their abilities and true authentic selves, regardless of their financial situation, by creating partnerships, programs and experiences with local, national and global organizations.
After attending one of the Friday night events and visiting a couple of other times with friends from out of town, I wanted to know more about “The Collective” and find out who this Julian character was/is. Well, I found out a great deal.
The Julian is Julian Cavazos, and he’s worked as a volunteer and board member in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years. Following his participation in experiential learning courses in 2006, Julian made a commitment to himself that one day he would make these courses and activities available to LGBTQ+ Youth at no cost to them. Following a health scare, Julian dedicated the following 11 months to creating Julian’s Fountain of Youth.
I was able to sit down with Julian and fill in some of the blanks and learn more about him and JFOY.
Instinct: When did the idea of JFOY begin and when was the first event or partnership happen?
Julian Cavazos: The light bulb believe it or not became 14 or 15 years ago, when I did an experiential learning course. This lead to more courses that were eye openers, they were through Summit Education. Afterwards, I said to myself, I wish this was available to me as a youth or a teenager, not that I had a bad youth. I was one of those gay kids that had a wonderful upbringing with great parents, but I want to make this experience available to LGBTQ youth.
Life does it things and years go by, I was on the board of education with SunServ. About six years ago, they had a prom for the kids, when I saw that, I knew it could be bettered. When I remember my proms growing up, the proms were with great food and in a large auditorium, and this was just a table and crackers and homemade décor, why don’t these kids have a prom like every other kid? Why not? No money, that was the reason and that was my lightbulb moment.
JFOY is the result of a prom. – I’m going to commit to creating a prom that is really cool and I am also going to do our own experiential courses for kids. The courses became a part of FLYER – Fort Lauderdale Youth Empowerment Retreat. And I know FLYER is life changing, not only do I see it, but I hear it from the youth and their parents. If there is anything I would ever do, it is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done.
And I also have to go back to One Magical Weekend (OMW – held at Disney in Orlando, Florida). I use to think about One Magical Weekend, all the guys with the red shirts – what I never got from it until I put it together with LGBTQ youths – imagine being an LGBTQ youth – walking into the most magical place on earth. You look around and see people that can accept you, as far as your eyes can see. I saw that in these kids, in each one of them.
Everyone wants to be a part of the weekend, a chaperone, but we do go over what [that weekend] means, it is different than what you think when you are presented with the One Magical Weekend’s party focus today.
Instinct: How do you find the kids to help or is that all done through your partnerships.
JC: It’s all over the place, a kid sent this random email and heard about the work program. I invite them in and interview them. Some go to school and then they show up. They also find us on Instagram, through SunServ, and I go to speak at different groups’ meetings.
Instinct: What has been the most successful part of JFOY?
JC: FLYER, definitely One Magical Weekend, our youth work program, we are a workspace. And the youth, they do not have to be an LGBTQ youth – some have two moms or two dads. The continuing education course every month, a recent one was about how do you know it is real gold or diamond. There are requirements to work with us, you must have a savings and bank account and you must take our courses. COVID kicked us in the butt, we could not do OMW, or FLYER. We did an outside prom – hot [temperature wise], kids came, but it wasn’t prom prom. (Julian did’t answer the question as to which ONE was the most successful, but it was clear that he has love for every aspect of JFOY)
Instinct: What has not worked in the past?
JC: I though – when we do youth events – I thought when you invited x number of kids, they would show up. But sometimes they really don’t want to leave their house. They might be on their phone or playing games, I didn’t realize it was as big as it was.
[Also something I have learned from this personally]. A man that is 60, learning all these pronouns. What I see if female is not how they want to be pronounced. What looks like a boy walking up to me doesn’t let me know their pronouns.
Instinct: Why kids and education? Why not the homeless or the elderly LGBTQ?
I had a homeless youth come in, many are under 24 – 22 years old, so he came in and was looking for a job. Okay, we are not going to just give him a job, we need to get him housing, too. Through one of our adult employees, he runs a house where young men are at. It all works together and needs to work together.
Instinct: You have a great list of activities and offerings, but in seeing what you are doing, there must be some future expansions? future projects?
We do an every Friday video about what is going on the store
Instinct: How has Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors / Oakland Park area of South Florida been to Julian’s Fountain of Youth?
I have a wonderful relationship with Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, Mayor Dean Trantalis, he paid a major role in us getting the building. “Julian,” they said, “let’s get you in there!” We have a wonderful relationship with our community, they come through, always come through when we need something, when we do bake sales and activities for our youth, they donate and buy.
Instinct: Have you seen tourists discover you and bring you home?
Absolutely, I’ve had people come from outside of our state and country. They hear about our program and they want to sit and chat and make donations, friend us on social media. They’ve walked into our Friday Night Mixers while walking The Drive. We’ve gone global.
And some of that discovery is through our Myrna YouTube series.
Interviewer’s side note – The Myrna videos is where I first saw Julian “in action”. There are a total of four Myrna videos with the fourth finally being released for the general public. ‘Myrna’s White Wedding’, video four, was part of a larger fundraising event so when you watch the videos at the end of this post, the fourth one will have some footage from the fundraiser event. The videos were originally released when people would purchase the link to watch.
The Myrna thing – not my mom’s name. When I was a kid, Astro World near Houston, I was lead foreman at the front gate. At the time – there was a new employee – I sat across from her – she had Roseanne Roseannadanna hair and her name was Myrna. I started calling everyone Myrna, my friend’s kids call each other Myrna. That is how Myrna became a character.
And me doing drag was just for Fundraisers only – I don’t do this shtick, I’ve never done any of this. When I came out, I was asked, “Will you dress up as a woman?” NO! So the first time was ten years ago, we were doing the AIDS Walk and a 50th birthday party. Then we decided we are done with parties. So we decided to do a Reverse Quinceanera and made that a fund raiser.
Instinct: If you had to summarize JFOY in one sentence.
JC: What I said when we first got started, if I had to sum it up – we create LGBTQ youth fun programs. We bring fun back because it is not always fun when you are out there, but when you are here we have fun.
The youth need to understand – as a youth we spend most of our times making stuff up about what people think about us, that is their perception. What we make up – we spend too much time, you don’t need to do that.
I want to thank Julian for his time, thank him for his heart, and thank him for his gift to the community of JFOY. If you want to learn more, head over to the Facebook page The Wilton Collective or the homepage for Julian’s Fountain of Youth.
And if you’re ready for some campy, fun, wholesome? entertainment, we have included the four Myrna videos below.
- Myrna’s Betrayal
2. Myrna’s In Love
3. Myrna’s Revenge
4. Myrna’s White Wedding