Blog

11 Oct
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We are now Out Alliance!

The Gay Alliance is coming out as The Out Alliance on National Coming Out Day, October 11th. In celebration of our name change we’re shutting down College Avenue and throwing a block party!

Our neighbors Three Heads Brewing will be providing beer tastings and Soul Coffee and Jazz will be serving coffee.

Buta Pub will be serving beer and wine.

The Buffalonian Food Truck (a ROC Pride favorite) will be serving food.

Entertainment will be provided by local drag performers and the insanely wonderful Wednesday Westwood will be our hostess for the evening.

We will also be celebrating Susan Jordan’s Birthday!

We invite you to grab a friend and come celebrate the next stage of the Alliance’s journey as champions of LGBTQ life and culture.

15 Aug
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Volunteer of the Month: Evelyn Bailey

Evelyn is an educator, political activist and historian. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, which she identifies as the “Hub of the Universe”, she came to Rochester in 1976.

A founding member of Catholics Against Nuclear Arms, Evelyn served as the treasurer of the 1983 Seneca Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice in Romulus, NY.

Evelyn is the executive producer of the Shoulders To Stand On Documentary on the history of the Rochester LGBT community which premiered in September 2013 at the Dryden Theater. Evelyn received the Community Service Award in 2014 from the Empire State Pride Agenda and the 2014 Community Leadership Award in Education from the Greater Rochester Branch of the American Association of University Women. In 2014 she was the Grand Marshall of the Gay Pride Parade.

Primarily due to Evelyn’s efforts, in 2016 the Gay Alliance received the Debra E. Bernhardt Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Documenting New York’s History for the exemplary work of the Shoulders To Stand On Program and the Gay Alliance commitment to document and preserve and make accessible the LGBTQ history of the Rochester region.

Currently she chairs the Rainbow Dialogues: A Bridge from the Past to the Present committee which is planning a one day community interactive dialogue in March, 2018 and a two day event in 2019 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. Evelyn is currently the Gay Alliance Archivist and the Rochester LGBTQ historian. She writes a monthly column in The Empty Closet, Shoulders to Stand On, and also a monthly History Corner of local gay historical events. She was the executive producer and grant writer for Reflections of a Rainbow, a 16-minute documentary on the history of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley used for fundraising and marketing.

While on the Board of the Gay Alliance, she served as Chair of the Development Committee and Chair of the Programming Committee. Ms. Bailey is a leader in the Rochester LGBT community volunteering as Chair of the Pride Picnic 2008 – 2015, Chair of Dining Out With Friends 2006 – 2008, and Chair of GAGV Bid From the Heart Auction from 1987 – 1989. Evelyn has been a teacher of mathematics for the past 30 years, and is a small business owner.

25 Jul
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Volunteer of the Month: Darrell Killingsworth

If you were one of the many volunteers for Roc Pride 2017, by now you have heard from our Volunteer of the Month Darrell Killingsworth. Darrell and the Pride Volunteer team have been busy recruiting volunteers and working on job assignments to make your volunteering experience one you can take pride in and have fun all at the same time.

Darrell says: In November of 2010, I moved from North Carolina (the heart of the bible belt) to Rochester. I spent many years working in the food service and health care fields. In 2005, I suffered spinal damage and I’m currently disabled. Aside from my disability. I do my best to try to live every day the fullest.

At first my motive for volunteering was so that I could get in free to concerts and other events. However, after coming out my reasons changed drastically. Coming out in the south, particularly a state like North Carolina, is like suddenly being a ghost at your own funeral. You experience anger and crying but nobody can hear you or see you anymore. One by one your friends all turn their backs to you and walk away. When I volunteered nobody cared about that, they were just glad to see me and happy that I was there to help. I felt accepted.

Not long after I moved to Rochester, I found myself alone and starting over in a new part of the country. I was given tons of offers by friends across the globe to go live with them. I chose Rochester and I am extremely glad that I did. I can’t think of living in a better place.

I first started looking to volunteer at the Gay Alliance. I began working with the youth program and then began doing special events and dances. I’ve helped with SAGE, Pride, just about anything they ask me to do I’ve done my best to try to help. When I am volunteering at the Alliance I am Out and always authentic to myself.

The Alliance is not the only organization that I volunteer for. I teach swimming at the local Y, teach CPR for ARC and sing with Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus as well as volunteering for ImageOut.

When asked why, it’s best explained if I use a young friend named Dustin as an example. He came up here from Georgia a few years ago. Dustin and I shared the same experience of being isolated during the coming out process. Not long after moving to Rochester, Dustin and I became volunteers for the Red Ball; he started singing with the RGMC and helps at the Alliance as well as Image Out. We shared the same experience of how giving of yourself, your time and resources breaks the isolation and you belong to a community. We can live our life Out and Proud. I pointed out to Dustin that by meeting people while volunteering at an event, he would begin to build his network and family of choice. Suddenly he realized he wasn’t alone and he was popular and well liked. By volunteering not only had he helped others, but he helped himself in ways he had never dreamed possible.

The LGBTQ community of Rochester includes some of the most remarkable, amazing and fabulous people on the planet. Considering today’s political climate and a society that at times expresses hate, we need each other more than ever. Stepping up to volunteer and giving of yourself, while being there for each other, is extremely important. It allows us to break down the walls of isolation and to live a life Out and authentic.

13 Jul
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2017 State of the Alliance

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT

“It’s been an amazing year for the Gay Alliance,” said Executive Director Scott Fearing to the 70-plus people at the annual meeting on May 17.

Fearing said that since the Alliance moved to the new LGBTQ Resource Center last December, and opened its doors in January, “numbers have skyrocketed.” Records show a 1,420 percent increase in client use of the Center. In 2016, 6,124 people came through the space.

Fearing added that in 2016 the Alliance broke even, but “with increased growth expenses also rise.”

Education Director Jeannie Gainsburg started out wearing her “Volunteer hat” and said that her Ride for Pride fundraiser brought in $43,000 in 2016 – as compared to its first year in 2014, when $4000 was raised.

She then put on her “Education hat” and gave information about the LGBTQ Academy, as the Education Program is known. She and Rowan Collins did 275 presentations in 2016, reaching over 10,000 people, and visiting 17 states, in addition to their many presentations in the Rochester area and all over upstate New York.

Anne Tischer, volunteer SAGE coordinator, who also coordinates the LORA group for women, said that in 2016 SAGE events more than doubled and there was a large increase in numbers. She noted that LGBTQ senior population will double in the next 10 years, and is a federally recognized “endangered minority”. SAGE almost disappeared a few years ago, but now is a growing multigenerational group with diverse activities, including rural outreach (Out in the STIX) and connections with local veterans’ groups. LORA was also disappearing a year ago, but it is now a program of the Gay Alliance.

Managing Director Jeff Myers talked about some other Alliance programs, including the very successful Gallery Q, the Library and Archive, the Youth Program (which has multiple new activities coming up) and The Empty Closet.

Scott Fearing presented the Vinnie-Vicki Award to Todd Ranous, a longtime friend of the Alliance, and to Alice Carver-Kubik and Jamie Allen, curators of Gallery Q. Todd and Alice made touching statements about what their work at the Alliance has meant to them.

Vinnie-Vicki Award winners Todd Ranous, Jamie Allen and Alice Carver-Kubik made touching statements at the annual meeting. Some excerpts:

Todd Ranous: When I found out I was going to be a recipient… I thought, what have I done to deserve an honor like this? Why would they choose me over someone else in the community?… But then I thought, what would make me question my worth, my value to my community? … What is wrong? Why do I feel this way?

Then I began to think of the worldview of the LGBTQ community. A world where your parents in Chechnya are given the choice to kill their LGBT kids or the government will do it… Then I re-read the letter that was sent to me from the Alliance… I was being honored for my work with the youth in our community… (A) former foster care youth, who identifies as gay, said to me, “I can’t invite a lot of people to my graduation/adoption/18thbirthday, but I want you to be there.” …

I thought about all of this and realized I do matter, that what I do is important, and what everybody in this room does is important.

Alice Carver-Kubik (speaking also for Jamie Allen, co-curator of Gallery Q):

What we found while working on this project is that Rochester has a rich community with an important history and a bright future. We wanted to be a part of this community and its future.…

(M)anaging the Gallery has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. We both have a passion for art and love this organization and what it stands for. We are so grateful to be able to put our special talents to work to bring art to the Alliance community and bring the greater Rochester community to the Alliance…. We feel that what we have given to this organization is minimal compared to what we have gained. We have a community, a place to call home and life-long friendships. This is not something we can do alone.

04 May
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Volunteer of the Month: Shira May

Shira May is an adjunct Instructor of Interpersonal Communication at Monroe Community College, as well as a private communication coach. She is also mom to her son Evan and spouse to Mick Behan, whom she married in June 2016. Their family has one dog, Ruby, and two cats, Elvis and Bettie Page.

Shira started volunteering for the Alliance in 2012, helping to put up flyers for Pride and working as a Pride volunteer. After taking the SpeakOut training, Shira joined the Speakers Bureau and has facilitated over 20 presentations at local schools and other organizations. She is now a certified SafeZone facilitator and a contract-based LGBTQ trainer with the Alliance. Shira also attended the PRIDE in Leadership training and is a former Alliance board member.

Shira says, “The Alliance has been a source of support for me in so many ways. It gave me strength in my own coming out journey, and it helped me grow into a proud speaker and advocate on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am for what the Alliance has done for me, and I am truly honored to give back in any way I can.”

06 Apr
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Volunteer of the Month: Dawn Balsis

Dawn Balsis says: I started as an intern with the Gay Alliance in the fall of 2013. I was working on my masters in social work.

After my first meeting with Scott Fearing I knew that the Gay Alliance would be the perfect place for me to complete my field experience. Scott was so welcoming and warm and, as I was to discover, so were the rest of the staff and volunteers.

During my time as an intern I coordinated the youth program. It was an amazing experience that was only made better by getting to work closely with three smart, kind and dedicated volunteers, BJ Scanlon, Adrianne Chesser and Kerry Meagher-Roberts.

I also really enjoyed the kids that would come weekly to our group. As my time was ending as an intern I decided that I wanted to stay on as a volunteer with the youth program. I truly believe I get more out of volunteering with the Gay Alliance than I give. The Gay Alliance is a place where anyone can feel welcome and that they belong.

13 Mar
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Volunteer of the Month: Jeana Bonacci-Roth

Since change happened in our political arena the Alliance has received an increase in volunteers stepping up to make a difference. Many of these volunteers have been our allies, wanting to do something to help our community.

Jeana and John Roth owners of John’s Tex-Mex in the South Wedge have been supporters of the Alliance for many years. They have generously shared their resources both financially and in product. Jeana Bonacci-Roth felt this was not enough and wanted to become involved in the day-to-day function of the Alliance.

In the short time that Jeana has been volunteering she has proven herself to be invaluable. Jeana has taken on the responsibilities of a part-time Administrative Assistant; no task is too big or small for her to handle. Since the Alliance moved to College Ave., programming has exploded, leaving the staff wearing many hats within the agency. Jeana has stepped right in and offered support to Alliance staff.

When asked why she started volunteering here, Jeana said, “There are multiple reasons I chose to start volunteering at the Alliance. I have been a longtime supporter and advocate of the LGBTQ community. My husband and I own John’s Tex-Mex and have seen the value in supporting the Alliance financially, but I wanted to do more. I had been so angry, frustrated, and downright depressed with the state our nation. I thought it best to be proactive and channel that energy into something positive. I also have been trying to get a better grasp of what interests me in order to make a career change and use my college degree. With some time on my hands I figured I should be lending it to a cause and organization that is so close to my heart. So here I am.

“I am so honored and touched to be selected as Volunteer of the month. I absolutely love being here. The past few months here have been humbling, inspiring, and life changing. I get the opportunity to work with some of the kindest, most dedicated, and positive people I have ever met. It has given a whole new meaning to my life and helped me to better identify my life’s purpose. I am a food server by trade but 10 plus years in the industry has worn on me. Through my volunteering I’ve realized that I truly love to serve people, but in different respect than what I’m use to. Here my work has meaning. It’s not about making money, it’s about selflessly helping and serving others for a greater good. Through my volunteering here I have come to the realization that the nonprofit sector is my destiny.

“To be quite honest, my volunteering here has saved me. I suffer from depression and was in the midst of severe bout with it. Coming into the Alliance two to three times a week not only helped me to get out of my head (and bed), but also put me amongst inspiring, positive people who sincerely and deeply care about others. Being surrounded by so much strength and compassion helped light the way in my dark time and helped me to find those qualities within myself. My volunteering at the Alliance has helped me just as much as it’s helped them.”

04 Feb
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Volunteer of the Month: Lizz McPhee

If you are visiting us at the Alliance and you see a flash move in front of you it will be Lizz McPhee our February volunteer of the month. Lizz works relentlessly at the Center making sure the rooms are set up for events, floors are vacuumed and everything is in order. Her behind the scene work with our SAGE program ensures that Tuesday lunches go off without a hitch.

We sat down with Lizz to ask how volunteering at the Alliance has impacted her life. Lizz states that by being in the safe space at the Alliance she can be her authentic self. She can dress and act as her true self and feels totally accepted. Even though I am not totally out as a Trans woman in my day to day life, I can come to the Center and relax, be authentic and feel free. This feeling of authenticity has built my confidence in who I am as a woman and allowed me to move forward in my life’s journey.

“I began volunteering five years ago at the Alliance and was terrified. I was struggling with my gender identity and was afraid. I felt at the time I was not accepted in the gay and lesbian world, I longed for a place to feel that acceptance. I was caring for my father who was ill, and found that I had become isolated and afraid to leave my home. After the death of my father in 2012 I started volunteering at the Alliance. PRIDE was my first experience as a volunteer.

Volunteering was the best thing I have ever done in my life. I began meeting people, building bridges, feeling acceptance and love like I have never experienced. In 2015 I was pulled back into volunteering by Anne Tischer and asked to work on the Halloween Dance, 2016. I helped build the SAGE float and actually participated in the PRIDE parade. I was front and center in the parade route and the sense of PRIDE was overwhelming. That feeling of PRIDE made me feel the need to become more engaged with people and volunteering.

I am at the Center almost every day, no task is too big or too small. I now feel love, I am respected, I have experienced acceptance… I am HOME. My life is not perfect and my life journey continues but with my Alliance family by my side I can conquer anything!”

08 Dec
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Volunteer of the Month: Jamie Allen

Jamie says: My love for photography and passion for museums brought me to Rochester three times. Each time I made the move from my home state of Arizona, and each time I learned a little more about the community here in Rochester. I began volunteering at the Alliance to support my wife and her efforts for the community. What I found is a group of loving people who cared deeply about preserving our past and making our collective futures brighter.

My first project with the Alliance was through the Shoulders to Stand On project, organizing and rehousing photographs collected for the Empty Closet. Admittedly, when I began, I knew little about LGBTQ and Rochester history. After we completed creating a method for documenting and finding the images held in that collection, we began to volunteer in the library. I discovered that the library is a vast resource available to individuals inside and outside of this community, and a true gem offered by the Alliance.

In 2013 I was asked to help create an exhibition about local LGBTQ history. Again, my knowledge of our collective and local history grew through the other amazing volunteers that worked on the project with me. When I had the opportunity to see others experience this history during the exhibition Forging Alliances, I understood just how far our community has come in a short time, but also how much more we have to work towards.

When the Alliance moved to its new space last year, my wife and I shifted our focus to use our skillset to coordinate exhibitions for Gallery Q. As a space for all members of our community, I enjoy attending first Friday openings and welcoming individuals who did not previously know about the Resource Center at the Alliance, but suddenly find themselves not only welcomed but treated to a cultural experience.

Similarly, as a volunteer with ImageOut as part of the art exhibition committee, I am constantly reminded of just how expansive the resources in our community are, as the festival and its related events provide a place to appreciate the accomplishments and creative abilities of artists around the world.

In addition, I have enjoyed volunteering with my wife for ROC Pride and Ride for Pride the past two years. While I may not be an activist at heart, I know that the Gay Alliance provides vital support and programing for people in all stages of life. As a member of this community, the Alliance continually provides me with opportunities to make friends, strengthen our community, and expand my knowledge of the issues that face me in the world. Not everyone has such a place filled with love in the town that they live in, so for that reason I volunteer my time to preserve our collective history and to make our sense of community stronger

01 Nov
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Volunteers of the Month: Gay Alliance Library and Archive Volunteer Team

The Gay Alliance Library and Archives are made possible by a team of volunteers that we are recognizing as our Volunteers of the Month for November. The team invites you to stop by the LGBTQ resource center and check out the library — an open house is scheduled for Nov. 2, from 6-8 p.m.

Our library team works weekly cataloging and processing new donations that make up the Library. The Gay Alliance library is something that the Rochester community can certainly be proud of. The library volunteers are excited with the amount of books that are being checked out on a daily basis. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm, extended hours are available Wednesday 6 pm to 8 pm.

Did you know that the Gay Alliance Library is the second largest LGBTQ specific library in the country and the largest on the east coast? It is a circulating and reference collection of over 10,000 fiction and nonfiction books and 800 magazine and journals titles, as well as audio recordings and DVD’s related to gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. The team is currently working incorporating the collection of DVD’s donated by Outlandish with over 500 LGBTQ titles. Most all of our collection is available to be checked out for your reading pleasure. We also have a collection of rare books which include first editions and out of print publications. These books are available for viewing during library hours.

The Gay Alliance Archives house a historic collection of copies of the Empty Closet newspaper, as well as vital paper records and ephemera of events, organizations and people of importance to the Rochester LGBTQ history. Evelyn Bailey, our lead archivist, has been working tirelessly to bring LGBTQ history to a new generation by her library initiative, where libraries in the Monroe County and Pioneer Library Systems host screenings of Shoulders to Stand On. On behalf of the Gay Alliance, Evelyn just received the Debra E. Bernhardt Annual Archives Award from the New York State Archivists society. This award is given for excellence in documenting New York’s History.

We are always looking for new volunteers that have a passion for books and library science. If you would like to join this amazing team, please stop by during library hours and we will get you in touch with the team. The team invites you to stop by the LGBTQ resource center and check out the Library and Archives.

The Library will be hosting an open house on November 2nd from 6 pm to 8pm. All are welcome to peruse the collection and meet our amazing team of volunteers.

Our Volunteer Library and Archive Staff

Gerry Szymanski – Volunteer for 14 years, GAGV Librarian, Library Leadership Team, MLS, Reserves and Digital Reserves Librarian, Sibley Library, University of Rochester.

Jeff Fowler – Volunteer for 10 years, Library Leadership Team, Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, and Engineer at Xerox.

Tara Winner-Swete – Volunteer for 7 years, Library Leadership Team, MLS (Library Science), MA (History of Art & Architecture) and Catalog Librarian, The Strong.

Bruce Woolley – Volunteer for 10 years, member of the gay community 45 years, Ph.D., Doctor in American History.

Evelyn Bailey – GAGV Lead Archivist, Chair of GAGV Shoulders to Stand On Program, member of the gay community for 35 years, small business owner and educator for 30 years.

Nicole Pease – Volunteer since January 2016, MLS and Archive Consultant for the GAGV 2010 – present.

Bob Pease – Volunteer since January 2016, Director of Development, Cloudcheckr.

A very special thank you to our library volunteers for the countless hours and their amazing work; all of you are an asset to the Gay Alliance. For more information on the Gay Alliance Library and Archives, contact us at library@gayalliance.org and like us on Facebook.

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