By Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy
It’s a new year and that time when many of us take stock of our lives and resolve to do things a little differently. We resolve to feed our bodies a little more responsibly and our minds a bit more vibrantly, but what can we do for our souls?
For me, that has often taken on the form of volunteering, where I can leverage either the thing I love to do or a skill set I possess, toward a better world.
Whether you choose a one-time event or an ongoing commitment, I encourage you to make this a part of your New Year’s commitments!
One San Diegan who has chosen to do this — and rose up in a very significant way during a very challenging 2015 — is Martha Henderson of San Diego LGBT Pride.
In 2007, as an “East Coaster” newly settled into San Diego, Martha was looking for a way to connect to her LGBTQ community. She soon met the infectiously engaging Cheli Mohamed (at that time employed by Pride) and began volunteering over the next several years, starting with parade setup and adding other events throughout the season. Her background as an events planner served her well in this multi-faceted event with so many gears and wheels.
In April 2015, Martha’s role transitioned to “community partnership manager,” the liaison and caretaker for nonprofits and community service providers that participate in the Pride festival. This will be especially meaningful as Pride unveils their plan for a free “Resource Fair,” to give community members with financial challenges access to resources that may be life-transforming.
Martha and I chatted a bit about 2015’s very wet Pride, as it happened to coincide with her first year of being fully immersed from start to finish.
Like many, by the end of Saturday, Martha was soaked through and through and wondering how much more she could handle.
“I had taken care of my community partners and they had packed up for the day, but I was feeling pretty demoralized,” she said. “Then I walked toward the main stage and saw a flood of people joining us to see the headlining entertainer, Ruby Rose.
“That just brought such a smile to my face,” Martha continued. “At the end of the day, bringing our community together is what Pride is all about, and despite the obstacles, I got to be a part of making that happen.”
Martha also spoke to the connectivity she has experienced through volunteering. “Because we all have the common goal of helping each other be successful, that investment in each other provides a foundation for lifetime relationships,” she said.
Despite the downpour, Martha Henderson was honored with San Diego Pride’s “Volunteer of the Year” award in 2015.
To find out more about how to get involved with Pride, go to sdpride.org.
Feeling inspired? I hope so and here are some additional options to consider for your 2016 commitment to volunteering.
I Love A Clean San Diego: The title really says it all, doesn’t it? If your passion is about the welfare of our planet and you want to leave the environment in better shape than you found it, consider checking out the work of this group. From coastlines to creek beds, their nearly 3,000 volunteers participate in outings to counteract littering and pollution in San Diego County. Visit cleansd.org.
Urban Street Angels: Based out of Missiongathering Church in North Park, this effort brings clothing, food and hygiene products to San Diego’s homeless youth, many of whom identify as LGBTQ. Volunteers are needed to assist with food preparation and “survival kit” assembly and distribution. If you’re not able to join, donations of jackets, small hygiene products, backpacks and warm, thick socks are always appreciated! Learn more at urbanstreetangels.org.
Special Delivery San Diego: If you’ve got a vehicle and an indefatigable sunny disposition, perhaps meal delivery would be a good fit for you! Special Delivery provides meals to medically homebound people living with AIDS, cancer and other critical illnesses throughout the San Diego community. Sometimes the person delivering their meals is the only person the homebound client will see that day, so these visits serve both their nutritional and mental health. Go to specialdeliverysandiego.com.
San Diego LGBT Community Center: The Center continually expands both its in-house programming and space accessibility for community and grassroots efforts, and it takes a dedicated team of volunteers to make it happen. Whether you’d like to fight HIV through #BeTheGeneration, want to hang out with lads (at Guys, Games and Grub) or ladies (at Red Hot Ladies Night), or find your community in one of the many support groups for women, men, transgender individuals, senior citizens, or queer youth (the list goes on), you can find your place at The Center. And, if you’re looking to participate in a once-yearly event, The Center runs some of the largest volunteer supported events in San Diego, such as Dining Out For Life and AIDS Walk San Diego. Visit thecentersd.org.
—Ian D. Morton is the senior program analyst at San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and produces the Y.E.S. San Diego LGBTQ youth conference. To nominate an individual or nonprofit for this column, please email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.