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.