Tax Collector Von Fraser will be roasted, toasted at Cotton Cub benefit
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 7:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 7:56 p.m.
Alachua County Tax Collector Von Fraser, a fixture at many events in east Gainesville no matter their significance, will be the center of attention at the Cotton Club Museum & Cultural Center Inc. Community Roast & Toast.
The benefit will held from 6-8 p.m. April 27 at the Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center at 5701 NW 34th St. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased from any member of the Cotton Club board or by calling 682-1147 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Roast & Toast will benefit the restoration project at the Cotton Club at 837 SE Seventh Ave., which, once completed, will be dedicated to collecting, displaying and preserving black art and culture.
Vivian Filer, chairwoman of the Cotton Club board, said tickets will not be sold at the door, so those interested in attending are encouraged to call to find out if tickets are available.
“We don’t want anybody who wants to come to the event to not come because they think all the tickets are sold,” she said.
Filer said the event is being held to show gratitude to Fraser for all the causes he supports in the community. She said the idea for the event came about after she saw Fraser at three events she attended one weekend.
“I said to myself, ‘You know what, somebody needs to thank Von for all of the hours he puts in supporting so many good causes in the community,’ ” Filer said. “Everywhere you go, he’s there.”
Gainesville City Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls will preside over the event and Fraser will be roasted and toasted by community members such as Charles Chestnut III, owner of Chestnut Funeral Home, and former Alachua County Commissioner Rodney Long.
Fraser, 75, was born and raised in Doerun, Ga., a small town in south Georgia that today still has a population of less than 1,000. Fraser said his passion and desire to make a difference in the community was fueled by watching his parents, Wallace and Sallie Fraser, help blacks in the Jim Crow South when he was young. He said those memories have always stuck with him.
“I’ve just been like this all of my life,” Fraser said. “I just want to help people because that’s what my parents did. They were 50 to 60 years ahead of their time. They were very progressive.”
Fraser has been spotted at such events as the Lake Road Community Reunion held two years ago at Cynthia Moore Chestnut Park in southeast Gainesville and many church services.
“I went to five churches one Sunday,” Fraser said.
After a stint in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1964, Fraser enrolled in the University of Florida in 1964 and graduated from UF in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In 1992, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Once renovations are complete, Fraser will move into a home he purchased in the Porter’s Oaks neighborhood near downtown Gainesville.
“I’m going to be active in my neighborhood,” Fraser said. “I’ve already attended a homeowners association meeting.”
Filer said the community roast and toast could become an annual event to raise funds for the restoration of the Cotton Club, which used to host performers on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” during the heyday of segregation in the U.S. The “circuit” consisted of nightclubs and theaters that featured black performers and catered to black audiences.
Filer said the ongoing restoration at the club currently includes installing the infrastructure for the restrooms, which will be located outside the main building. She said the board needs $600,000 to complete the entire project and there is a need for someone to write grant proposals.
“We are going to keep on doing what we are doing, but we are really in need of someone who knows how to write grants and people who know where grant money is available,” Filer said.