Gay for Good is looking to add more diversity to its group
By: Luke Sherman/TRT Reporter—
A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, about two dozen volunteers came together on a Saturday morning to make Valentines—but not for their special someone. The recipients? Seniors citizens served by FriendshipWorks, an organization that seeks to alleviate the isolation faced by the elderly community.
The approximately 25 people that met to make the cards all belonged to Gay for Good (G4G)—Boston. Founded in 2009 in Los Angeles, G4G brings together LGBTQ people to volunteer with local environmental and social welfare organizations. G4G has chapters in 11 cities across the country, from Pittsburgh to Seattle and Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago.
“We’re looking to really encourage people within the LGBTQ community to participate in the broader community through volunteer projects,” explained G4G—Boston board member Art Nava. “So we partner with community groups—non-profits in the area—on a variety of different projects.”
Nava said that G4G—Boston, the organization’s sole chapter in New England, tries “to make it easy for people” to serve the community by offering relatively short projects on Saturdays, Sundays, and after work, adding that the board works to create a sense of camaraderie among the members.
“One thing after they formed the chapter here that they got right was really just making sure that the volunteer had a great experience,” said Nava, who began volunteering with the group shortly after it formed six years ago. “It’s kind of silly, but everyone wears nametags, people take a moment to introduce themselves by name and what town they live in, and they make a real effort to make sure that things don’t get too cliquey, which I think a lot of things in the area sometimes kind of miss.”
The board of G4G—Boston meets virtually once every four weeks and strives to plan its excursions at least two to three months in advance, which all members can attend. The chapter targets groups that have established volunteer programs and volunteers outdoors during the warmer months.
In addition to providing opportunities to the approximately 1,000 members to serve the community, G4G—Boston also functions as a space for people to befriend one another.
“The social aspect of G4G has been incredible. It’s just really nice to know there are people in my community who share the same values as I do and who want to make a difference,” said member Clayton Vozzella, who joined the chapter in 2014. “I’ve made a solid handful of friends through the group that I see on a regular basis outside of G4G … It’s been really satisfying to see some unification of the LGBTQ community in a world that seems to try dividing people through their differences.”
Nava has had a similar experience.
“Last year, we had an anniversary party for the five years and invited back some of the old board members,” Nava said. “That five-year mark was kind of when I reflected and thought about the friends I had made the previous five years and for the most part they were people I had met through Gay for Good.”
The volunteers often grab lunch after the events to get to know each other better, Nava added.
Julie Nowak joined the group a little over a year ago after seeing an advertisement for the chapter on Facebook and has enjoyed her experience thus far.
“It’s been wonderful to try new things and discover skills I didn’t know I possessed. I feel more confident and more curious about new adventures, rather than trepidatious,” she said. “I recommend G4G all the time to friends and acquaintances.”
While the membership of the group skews male and cisgender, the chapter has prioritized increasing membership from underrepresented communities.
“I think the group does a decent job with diversity, and we are constantly trying to find new ways to broaden the demographics of the group. I particularly participate in a lot of community outreach and I’ve tried to increase the number of women in our group,” Vozzella said. “As some of us board members begin to consider stepping down, we are encouraging applications for future board members to come from underrepresented groups within the community. We are primarily looking at people who are trans, people of color, and women.”
G4G—Boston has a number of events planned for its members this month. On June 5, the chapter will invite members to serve as course marshals for the 2016 AIDS Walk, sponsored by AIDS Action Committee, an organization that seeks to prevent new infections of HIV, maximize the health outcomes of those infected, and end the virus’ epidemic in Massachusetts. On June 11, G4G—Boston will march for the second time in the Boston Pride Parade.
For more information on G4G—Boston and its events, visit http://goo.gl/xXUgZO. Anyone can sign up to join the group for free.