04 May

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

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

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

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

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

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 and like us on Facebook.

06 Oct

Volunteer of the Month: Alice Carver-Kubik

If you have visited Gallery Q and have admired the exhibits there, our October volunteer of the month is one of the people you should thank. Alice Carver-Kubik has worked tirelessly along with the Gallery Q team to provide the gallery space at the Gay Alliance that we are certainly proud of.

Alice says: I first came to Rochester to study at the George Eastman Museum in the photographic preservation and collections management masters program. I’m originally from a little town in northern Indiana called Michigan City (it’s right on Lake Michigan). After graduate school I moved to Washington DC for an internship at the National Gallery of Art.

I returned to Rochester a year later to pursue love. I decided I needed to get involved in my new community in order to have a sense of belonging and to make friends. I answered an ad in The Empty Closet to help with the Shoulders to Stand On project. My partner and I made a finding aid and organizational system for the Empty Closet photographs so that they would be accessible for the documentarians. We continued to volunteer with the Library and Archives for several years working on a variety of projects.

Simultaneously, I also began to volunteer with ImageOut, becoming co-chair of the art exhibition committee. I help to organize an exhibition every year in coordination with the film festival. When the Alliance announced they were moving and would be keeping the gallery in the new space, I jumped at the opportunity to coordinate exhibitions for the new Gallery Q as part of my ImageOut role. The experience was so positive that I agreed to be the gallery coordinator for Gallery Q.

I love that Gallery Q brings a diverse range of people to the Alliance that may not otherwise have a reason to come. I enjoy meeting people at the openings and describing all the amazing work the Alliance does for our community. I also love bringing great art to our community.

09 Sep

Volunteer of the Month: Liz Doyle

We are fortunate to have dedicated volunteers at the Gay Alliance who step up to the plate and take on any tasks no matter how large or small. Our September Volunteer of the Month Liz Doyle is such a volunteer.

Liz is always ready to help out wherever there is a need. Liz works tirelessly throughout Pride week, working the events leading up to the Parade and Pride Festival. Liz is the first to show up to work at the Pride Festival and the last person to leave. Liz makes herself available by showing up and helping with event throughout the year. Thank you, Liz, for all that you do for all of us at the Gay Alliance, you deserve this recognition as our September Volunteer of the Month.

Liz said: “Except for a few years in North Carolina, I’ve lived in the Rochester area most of my life. I have an identical twin sister people sometimes mistake for me if they don’t know us well. I grew up in Gates and got my bachelor’s degree in sociology from SUNY Brockport, which was the perfect major for me because I’m a people person. I’ve worked in human services most of my life, with infants and toddlers, students and adults with special needs, and senior citizens.

When I moved back from North Carolina, I sought out the reconnecting with the LGBT community here. I found friends and family through Upstate LesConnect, Equal Grounds, LORA, Dignity Integrity and the Gay Alliance. I volunteered to help with any event I could in whatever way was needed. For many years I’ve helped build floats and marched in the Pride Parade; coordinated volunteers for the gate and helped with setup and teardown at the Pride Picnic; sold tickets and helped with setup, food, and cleanup for the Red Ball and Big Gay Proms; and helped with other Pride Week and Sage events. One of the highlights was coordinating volunteers dressed as Wizard of Oz characters to greet people at the Pride Picnic.

I just like to volunteer and do things for the community. I would not be the person I am without the people I have met in all the places I reached out to. My community is everything to me, so I do all I can to be a part of it. Will you become a part of it too?”

10 Aug

Volunteer of the Month: Karen James

Volunteering at the Gay Alliance is about building community as well as building relationships. By giving of your time you will find that you are making a difference and building a network of new friends in your life. Our volunteer of the month is Karen James.

Karen is a relatively new volunteer to the Gay Alliance, she has stepped up and proven to be an incredible assets to our team of volunteers.

Karen said: I have spent my entire adult life as a mother; and much of that time working in the community as a social worker serving adults with mental illness.

For the past 12 years of my career I have been a Civil Servant with the NYS Office of Mental Health. I work at the Rochester Psychiatric Center outpatient mental health center where I am a Rehabilitation Counselor II. My role at the clinic  is to support adults diagnosed with a mental illness to pursue their vocational dreams. I am also considered an expert in Work Incentives and Benefits Advisement. This simply means that I empower people to make informed choices about working and how work will impact public benefits such as SSDI / SSI, Medicare and Medicaid. I am passionate about this work as financial instability greatly impacts wellness.

This year I decided that I am now entitled to focus on my own needs. This meant changing my lifestyle by eating healthier, exercising, and building a social life beyond my comfort zones of work and home. Volunteering at the Gay Alliance reconnected me as a Lesbian woman to my community. I am meeting awesome people and making social connections. At The Gay Alliance I participated in SAGE’s Health Quest Program. At Health Quest I learned more about food that makes me feel better and will ultimately allow me to live stronger. While participating in Health Quest I was given the opportunity to do basic Yoga stretching with Thomas Somerville. This led me to join the gym where Tom teaches Yoga and I do Yoga twice a week as well as other exercise groups.

At the Gay Alliance, I work closely with Jeff Myers who is the Volunteer Coordinator. Jeff trusted me to help him with volunteers for 2016 Roc Pride Festival. This was my first Pride celebration in many years. I am also assisting Jeff in revamping the InQueery community education program.

Volunteering at Gay Alliance has given me experiences such as Health Quest, InQueery, Fist Full Of Stories and now the behind the scenes work that goes into making Pride a wonderful experience for our LGBTQ community and our allies. Pride is hugely supported by a multitude of talented and gifted volunteers.

I can honestly say that the Gay Alliance is giving me much more than I am giving them.

21 Jun

Thank You From Ride For Pride 7!

$ 43,000 RAISED!!!




Thank you to our Ride For Pride Bikers:

 Tim Ackroyd, Julia Acosta, Garrett Argenna, Caroline Atti, Adrian Bartholomeo, Benoit Biteau, Aj Blythe, John Braun, Yovi Bruno, Alice Carver-Kubik, Adrianne Chesser, Tatiana Clader, Rowan Collins, Nick Dennie, Joseph Doty, Les Eisenberg, Scott Fearing, Phyllis Fleischman, Ed Freedman, Laurie Freeman, Bob Freeman, David Frier, Jeanne Gainsburg, Dana Glicksman, Aaron Gorelick, Dustin Hilton, Chad Hulbert, Dawn Johncox-Martinez, Pebble Kranz, Matthew Krueger, Josh     Layfield, Karen Managan, Brian Managan, Wanda Martinez-Johncox, Jo Meleca-Voigt, William Merigan, Martin Murphy, Manuel Pena, Allan Phoenix, Anastasia Polashenski, Maya Polashenski, Pamela Polashenski, Ronald Pratt, Peter Pullano, Matthew Ragusa, Pamela Rogers, Craig Ronald, Daniel Rosen, Lilly Rosen, Maggie Rosen, Steve Sanow, Justin Schultz, Benny Serrano, Michael Shuter, Alan Smrcka, Amanda Smrcka, Lynn Tavernese, Deborah Trubatch, Jonathan Wetherbee, Barbara Williams and Chris Wooldridge.


Thank you also to those who did not ride, but who fundraised: Bruce Ingersoll, Mike Kelly, Tallis Polashenski, Kellie Ronald, and Owen & Sara Zacharias (who matched all of their donations).

You all rock!!!


Thank you to our amazing Ride For Pride support staff and crew

Home base/Party Central: Kellie and Craig Ronald

Sag Hags: Tallis Polashenksi, Joe Yokajty and Ben Cook

Breakfast Rest Stop: Sue Delp and Walter Polashenski

Lunch Dude: Bruce Ingersoll

Party Central Assistants: Alan Metelsky, Deb Hartman, Jamie Allen, Jill Frier and Christopher Hennelly

Cheerleaders/End Line Pics: Kat Wiggall, Lorraine Woerner, Jeff, Steve, Martha, Colleen and Bryan

Road Painters: Ed Freedman, Owen Zacharias and Maya Polashenski

Massage and Bodywork: Mike Kelly

Memorial Arm Bands and Photo Placards: Matthew Ragusa and Jo Meleca-Voigt


Thank you to our official Ride For Pride sponsors

Freewheelers Bicycle Shop

Amiel’s Original Submarines

Guerrilla Tees

MiKelly Massage and Bodywork

The Bachelor Forum

Rochester Kink Society

Long Acre Farms

Marshall Street Bar and Grill


Tryon Bike

Ronald Pratt Acupuncture

Bike Zone

Manuel Peña Photography

Steve Brosnihan Cartoons


Thank you to the over 1,000 people and businesses who supported our riders through donations and use of space, including:

 Kellie & Craig Ronald, Pam & Walter Polashenski, Jeanne Gainsburg & Ed Freedman, Bruce Ingersoll, Jennifer Mathews, Nicole Strait, Kim Braithwaite from Barilla Pasta, Century Liquor and Wines, Park Ave Bikes, Wegmans, Mellow Madness Tattoo Parlor, Young Sommer Winery, Apple Country Spirits


Special thanks to our “first page” top ten fundraisers

Jeanne Gainsburg, Bruce Ingersoll, Aaron Gorelick, Pam Polashenski, Pebble Kranz, Scott Fearing, Justin Schultz, David Frier, Ed Freedman, Debbie Trubatch!


* It’s not too late to donate!  Rider’s pages will stay active until September 2016 at




Photo credit: Jill Frier