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.