2014 Lavender Community Awards

Produced by Andy Lien
Written by Shane Lueck

The Lavender Community Awards are our new version of the Lavender 100 and the Pride Awards. Recipients of this year’s awards were nominated and voted for online throughout the month of August. Winners demonstrate clear dedication and leadership by being either out or an ally and working for the advancement of the community that is comprised of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied people. Without further ado, we are proud to present the recipients of the 2014 Lavender Community Awards.

Joe Dowling. Photo by Joan Marcus

Joe Dowling. Photo by Joan Marcus

Joe Dowling
Organizational Involvement: Minnesotans United for All Families
“All I do is recognize that GLBT relationships are worthy of celebration and examination in dramatic works for the stage,” says Joe Dowling, Director of the Guthrie Theatre, humbling himself. “Some of the greatest artists in the theater have been part of the GLBT community and their work has equal validity and power with every other writer.” Though the current Guthrie season will be his last, Joe has left his mark. In his 20 years with the world-renowned theater, Joe has always been an ally in bringing GLBT themes to the Guthrie’s productions, which he says is because he believes passionately in the equality of all and loathes discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender, or economic disadvantage. Joe cites his mother and wife as inspiration, calling them two strong and dynamic women who shared values of openness and inclusion. “I am also inspired on a daily basis by many colleagues and friends in the GLBT community who, overcoming prejudice and discrimination, have remained true to their beliefs and principles. They are all heroes.” Although Joe is without a magic crystal ball, he hopes for a future world where his granddaughters and everyone else can express themselves honestly and with joy.

Timothy Ferraro & Mark Hauck. Photo by Michael Fell

Timothy Ferraro & Mark Hauck. Photo by Michael Fell

Timothy Ferraro & Mark Hauck
Organizational Involvement: Political Campaigns, Nonprofit and Industry Boards, Community Organizations
“I think our biggest work for the GLBT community has been being out and present in our community at large; as business owners, parents, members of a faith community, and neighbors,” Mark says. He and Tim own Bluestem Construction, a 15-year-old design and build remodeling company. The couple (together for 25 years), have learned that belonging and dignity are fundamental values. Mark says, “Our advocacy and support of teens needing permanent families is rooted in that experience. In fact, the agency we are proud to support, Ampersand Families, lists as their mission ‘to recruit and support permanent families for older youth, and champion practices in adoption and permanency that restore belonging, dignity and hope.’ Pretty much everything we do is rooted in building opportunities for more of these three things, because, let’s face it, we would be in a much better place as a world with more of all three.” That thought process is evident, as their kids remain the center of their lives and their work continues to create a better tomorrow for their children. “A friend of ours once observed that it was a shock to discover that not everyone believed that it was their job as a human being to make the world a better place—we try to remember that is job number one,” Mark says. “It’s usually the little stuff that gets in the way and distracts from the big job of being a positive part of this moment on this planet. Sometimes a sink-full of dirty dishes and a pressing deadline can throw you off your game, but you just have to get back in.”

Matthew Hawkins. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Matthew Hawkins. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Matthew Hawkins
Organizational Involvement: Walker Art Center’s Contemporaries, Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League coach, Human Rights Campaign
“You don’t need to be a millionaire to make a monumental contribution” might be Matthew Hawkins’ unofficial motto. A lot of people just write a check, or are volunteers in name only, but with Matthew, his presence is truly felt. Calling himself someone who may not have all the money to give, but can sure find the time to donate, the Complex Marketing Manager for W Minneapolis (The Foshay and Le Méridien Chambers) gives his all to support various organizations. “It’s great to give back to a community that I am proud to be a part of,” he says. “Growing up in a military household and the northern suburbs didn’t allow me to give back as much as I wanted to. By doing the work that I have done, in my mind helps someone out there in some shape or form.” Any great person isn’t the same without an excellent support system and Matthew gives credit to his sister, Viola, and friend, Jean Cowles, who he says have always made him want to be a better person. Matthew doesn’t show any signs of stopping. He says, “It will always be my goal to make sure that wherever I may find myself, I will always be trying to find time, to get others more involved, and make sure that the alignment and the support is felt by the community.”

Richard Herod III. Photo courtesy of Cuneo Advertising

Richard Herod III. Photo courtesy of Cuneo Advertising

Richard Herod III
Organizational Involvement: CODA International, Central High School Class of 1963 Scholarship Fund, Second Harvest Heartland, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Human Rights Campaign, and MinneCODA
“I would say that I lived my life with ‘eyes wide shut’ in terms of my work in the GLBT community until the marriage amendment came up,” says Richard Herod III, general manager at White Bear Mitsubishi. “Even when my personal rights were up for public debate I didn’t act right away.” It wasn’t until an HRC dinner during which a speaker talked about the GLBT community being the last group of citizens against which it’s legal to discriminate that Richard got involved, donating and getting a Vote No yard sign. Getting the sign turned into wrapping his car in those orange decals when his townhome community made him take down the yard sign; he then turned car wrapping into a fundraiser (ultimately raising over $17,000 in less than four weeks). “Being ‘different’ is hard. But being bold is better,” Richard says. “While I’m sad it took the Vote No yard sign conflict in Woodbury to inspire my activism in the GLBT community, I’m grateful that it occurred. It was a necessary wake up call for me.” Richard is looking for his next chance to get involved, saying he’d love to work with youth, potentially in raising money for scholarships for GLBT youth. He says, “I’ve enjoyed much success in my life so far, but wouldn’t have achieved it without the people who believed in me when I was young and finding myself.”

Patrick Kindler. Photo by Mike Hnida

Patrick Kindler. Photo by Mike Hnida

Patrick Kindler
Organizational Involvement: One Heartland, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation, Red Ribbon Ride
As the executive director for One Heartland, Patrick Kindler has led the organization to a strong financial foothold as well as being the guiding force behind new programs such as Camp True Colors, a camp for GLBTQ youth. According to Patrick, his work is to “connect dots and manage resources,” but really he enjoys bringing people and organizations together for a common purpose and, when possible, using the One Heartland Center as a community resource. “I don’t want any youth to feel like they are alone,” he says. “We all need to feel like we belong, that we are part of a community, and that we have a family, whether or not that is what society believes is a ‘traditional’ family or not.” Patrick’s journey in the nonprofit world and in the GLBT community started when he was 16, working at Wilder Forest, a program of the Wilder Foundation. Of his time there, Patrick says, “I worked with some of the most amazing people for over 12 years. It was, and still is, probably the most diverse community of which I have been a part.” It was there that he learned the power of different people, from different backgrounds, working together to bring change. According to Patrick, the key to creating change together is hearing everyone’s voice and acknowledging what they bring to the conversation.

Ellen Krug. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Ellen Krug. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Ellen (Ellie) Krug
Organizational Involvement: Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, Bridge for Youth, past co-chair of the Hennepin County Bar Association Diversity Committee, Big Brothers Big Sisters
Ellie Krug has long been an outspoken advocate for the trans community. Currently working with Call for Justice, she helps low-income people connect with civil legal resources in the Twin Cities, but many know Ellie as a writer, both as a columnist for Lavender and her published memoir, Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change. But placing all of that aside, Ellie works tirelessly as a public speaker, giving presentations about what it means to be a trans person, even speaking at major corporations (think Target Corp. and others), law firms, and colleges and universities across the country. Calling herself a “post-radical activist,” Ellie doesn’t view her role as breaking down doors or marching in the streets, but instead as one of bit-by-bit educating and connecting with others about the challenges and barriers that trans people face. “I was alive when Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were still alive, and their messages were that each of us has a responsibility to make this world a better place,” she says. “Because I’m on my second career with not a lot of time left to fulfill it, I see my future as one where I need to do my best to do as much as possible in as short a time as possible. Assuming my health holds out, I plan on pushing the envelope everyday in a variety of ways. I want to be able to look back and say, ‘Yes, I did make a difference.’”

Julie Schanke Lyford. Photo by Bellagala

Julie Schanke Lyford. Photo by Bellagala

Julie Schanke Lyford
Organizational Involvement: Twin Cities Pride, Twin Cities Wedding Professionals, Twin Cities Quorum, Minnesotans United for All Families, Andrew’s Round Table, PTA President
As the owner and Senior Event Producer of Fabulous Functions LLC, Julie has been helping couples navigate the world of weddings. Working hard to promote positive wedding images for GLBTQ couples, Julie has worked to show couples what is possible, even producing a wedding photo shoot for Lavender featuring three real couples in June of 2013. In terms of actual weddings, Julie has volunteered with Twin Cities Pride to head the wedding area for the last three years, done commitment ceremonies and produced wedding shows during Pride, all of which culminated in real weddings taking place this year during Pride. She says, “I’ve been helping GLBTQ couples get married for over a decade, now it just happens to be legal.” For Julie, this story is personal. Her parents married in the ‘60s, and in the mid-‘70s, her dad came out to her mother. They stayed married and he stayed closeted, coming out to Julie when she was 17 (they waited until she graduated high school before they divorced and moved to Des Moines). “My dad didn’t believe that I actually didn’t care,” she says. “To me, when he said, ‘I’m gay,’ it wasn’t like he was saying, ‘I’m an alien.’ It was more like, ‘Oh, just like Ron and Herb,’ our family friends.” In the future, Julie plans to continue working with couples to help them discover the vendors that can help them create the wedding of their dreams. Conversely, she will also be working with vendors to help them become more inclusive to all GLBTQ couples: doing things like working with them to get affirmative photos for their sites and training their staff to be aware in their conversations.

Sarah McPeck. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Sarah McPeck. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Sarah McPeck
Organizational Involvement: Gadfly, Out Twin Cities Film Festival (previously, not currently), Brave New Workshop and Huge theaters
Comedian Sarah McPeck is currently producing her first documentary, aptly called Q, showcasing seven queer Twin Cities performance artists and the community that supports them. As someone who identifies as lesbian and believes whole-heartedly in service to others, GLBT causes are dear to her heart. Sarah donates a lot of performance time to various GLBT fundraisers and groups and works as a public speaker, speaking about coming out late in life and believing in yourself. She says, “When I was first struggling with my own identity there were many community members that just sat and listened to me, let me share my fears, worries, excitement.” Thanks to the support of friends, family, and local performers, Sarah has come into her own and strongly supports sharing people’s stories, believing that it is through the human connection and reliability that we can build strong communities. She says. “I want to be visible. I believe it is what you see that defines what you believe is possible in the world. It is when we share our stories and come together that we can start building community.” This philosophy has made its way into the one-woman show Sarah is producing as an upcoming headliner on an Olivia cruise ship as she works toward building strong GLBT community connections, teaching and performing improv, marrying her fiancée, and being a mom “that tries her best” for her two children.

Dave Michela. Dave (seated left) and his entourage. Photo by Mike Hnida

Dave Michela. Dave (seated left) and his entourage. Photo by Mike Hnida

Dave Michela
Organizational Involvement: The Aliveness Project, the MN AIDS Project, Toys for Tots, HRC, Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League, Minnesotans United for All Families, Open Arms
“I’m definitely not saving the world, especially compared to my fellow nominees. I’m not in the same league as those folks,” says Dave Michela, the humble Vice President of Strategy & Services for a digital marketing and technology agency who works in his down time as Dave Em Presents, producing and promoting events for the GLBT community. “I throw parties and fundraisers, and I have a pretty powerful social media megaphone that I can use to help rally support for organizations, causes, and events around town.” Sometimes, all the community needs is someone with a wide net to draw everyone together. The original goal was to provide entertainment alternatives on par with what he had seen in many other cities around the country and around the world. Being able to bring a charitable component from time to time has been a welcome plus. And every once in a while he plays “a tiny part” in changing someone’s life: “I had a guy come up to me at a recent party who said that he had met his future partner at one of my events a few years ago, and they were now planning their wedding.” What does the future hold for Dave? “I have tried unsuccessfully a couple of times to hang up my dancing shoes for good, but I keep coming back like Cher,” he says. “The recent death of fellow nominee and friend, Kelly Phillips, has me thinking hard about ways to do more. I’m lucky to have a gift for bringing people together and I’m mindful of the fact that it’s a powerful tool that needs to be used for the right reasons.”

Paul Mittelstadt, M.D. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State University, Mankato

Paul Mittelstadt, M.D. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State University, Mankato

Paul Mittelstadt, M.D
Organizational Involvement: PFund, Prime Timers, GAMMA, St. Joan of Arc, and a major donor for scholarships for the GLBT community especially at the University of Minnesota, Mankato
As an ER physician for going on 36 years now, Paul Mittelstadt is at the front lines of caring for the community. But he does even more when he is off the clock. For the past 10 years, Paul has been a major donor for scholarships for the GLBT community, especially at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In 2014, Paul set up a permanent endowment to by funded by his estate for that university. “I see the need for support for the GLBT community as an ongoing need,” he says. “Having grown up in southern Minnesota, the gender preference bias was a major issue when I was in my undergraduate studies. This bias is still an ongoing issue with many students finally starting to understand and accept their gender preference when in college. These scholarships are intended to let students know it is acceptable to have a leadership role in GLBT issues while in college.” Additionally, thanks to Paul’s generous support, it will encourage students who do not want to go a large university, or unable to go to an expensive private college, to attend a state university where they can be politically socially active in GLBT causes. “Being gay, and now financially supporting college students who are gay, I want these students to have an easier time financially and emotionally while in college,” he says. “My dream is some day to see same-sex issues to be a non-issue. I wish to see orientation to be as much of a non-issue as women’s voting rights is considered today.”

Jamie Nabozny. Photo courtesy of Jamie Nabozny

Jamie Nabozny. Photo courtesy of Jamie Nabozny

Jamie Nabozny
Organizational Involvement: Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, Southern Poverty Law Center, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, OutFront Minnesota
Jamie Nabozny says simply, “My job is to get people to see bullying and harassment as an issue that impacts everyone.” As an out public speaker and consultant on bullying, Jamie’s work has made him a role model not just for kids who are harassed for a variety of reasons, but specifically for those who experience bullying based on GLBT identities, they are able to look to Jamie and think, “If he can make it and be successful and happy, then so can I.” Jamie uses both his public speaking and his website, www.jamienabozny.com, to get his message across and educate. For Jamie, his life experience has influenced his passion for the work that he does: he does this work because he knows what it feels like. “I know what it’s like to be ostracized and humiliated and physically hurt because of those differences and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way,” he says. His passion is clear, and his work has grown to be nationwide, even being invited to speak in states like Alabama and Wyoming, where most people wouldn’t be allowed to speak on such topics. But his work doesn’t stop there. He says, “I have no idea where my future will take me but I know this issue is one I will always care about and be involved in.”

Todd Pernsteiner. Photo by Travis Anderson Photography

Todd Pernsteiner. Photo by Travis Anderson Photography

Todd Pernsteiner
Organizational Involvement: Bingo A-GoGo, Red Ribbon Ride, Dining Out for Life, St. Louis Park’s Children First, Pathways Health Crisis Resource Center, RE/MAX Results Breast Cancer Ride, and Minnesota Recreation & Park Association.
It doesn’t take money to support causes, as Todd Pernsteiner knows. Todd, who owns a marketing, design, and events company (Pernsteiner Creative Group) has donated his time and talents to numerous GLBT events over the years, including the past six years for Bingo A-GoGo, a fundraiser for Park House and Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. “I learned early on from my parents that being kind and helping people in need is essential to have a well-balanced life,” he says. “My parents are very kind and have helped me learn to see the good in others. I choose to work with GLBT organizations because I understand the many challenges our community faces—I want to help those who may not otherwise have a large support system.” With family and friends (both straight and gay) who have shown Todd unconditional love over the years, he recognizes the need to give back. He says, “It hasn’t always been an easy road but we’ve come along way since I was the terrified 21-year-old son/brother/uncle coming to terms with who I am.”

Anne Phibbs. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Anne Phibbs. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Anne Phibbs
For most people, involvement in diversity and equity causes is something that happens after the workday ends. Activities like volunteering, donating, and promoting happen on the side as a hobby or passion project. For Anne Phibbs, it has become her life’s work. Anne has worked for over 20 years to help colleges better serve GLBT students and staff, while fostering inclusivity on campuses. Anne’s resume includes having worked at Metropolitan State University as Director of GLBT Student Services, followed by a few years as the director of the GLBTA Programs Office at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Even though her positions were within GLBT offices, her work often went beyond GLBT rights, and supported a broader social justice movement against homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. As of 2011, Anne has extended her diversity work with a much wider net as the Director of Education for the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity. It takes a great passion and drive to make such a complex and exhaustive topic as equity into a career, but Anne shows no signs of slowing down. Traveling the state with her educative programs and continually coming up with new ways to introduce equity topics into everyday conversations across campus, everyone that comes in contact with her is in awe of her ability to frame these conversations. The ripple effects of her work can be felt by anyone that steps on campus as she empowers staff and faculty, as well as the young adults.

Kelly Phillips, 1965-2014. Photo by Sarah Pierce Photography

Kelly Phillips, 1965-2014. Photo by Sarah Pierce Photography

Kelly Phillips, 1965 – 2014
A community leader and vice president at Boston Scientific, Kelly Phillips was known for his political activism and charity. Others may know Kelly as the co-founder of Lush Food Bar in northeast Minneapolis, a popular gathering spot for the GLBT community. As a business owner and Minneapolis resident, Phillips was active in the push for marriage equality in Minnesota, along with other issues facing the community. People whose lives he’s touched have said that he just didn’t donate. He was knocking on doors. He didn’t just sit up on his perch and look down at the world; he got his hands dirty and worked for the community. Not only did he elevate the visibility of the community by founding Lush and working toward political equality, but his unfortunate death also brought to the attention of the state and the media the love and loss of Nathon Bailey, his fiancé, weeks before their wedding. His death serves as an unfortunate example of how the GLBT community lives, loves, and loses, just like the greater society.

Don Quaintance. Photo by Mike Hnida

Don Quaintance. Photo by Mike Hnida

Don Quaintance
Organizational Involvement: Rural AIDS Action Network, Minnesotans United for All Families, East Central MN Men’s Circle, East Central MN PRIDE “Picnic in the Park,” East Central MN PFLAG
For many, retirement resembles lounging on a beach somewhere or finally getting around to that endless reading list. But for Don Quaintance, retirement provides the perfect opportunity to get involved. Some people know him as the person behind Pine City Pride, a celebration that is small but mighty, but his work goes much further. Don works to bring awareness of GLBT issues to the rural areas of Minnesota while also working to provide caring support and friendship to gay and bisexual men living in the rural areas. “Building this community is especially important in East Central Minnesota where many GLBT people and their allies live but are often isolated from one another by distance or silence,” he says. “By bringing awareness of the GLBT community to the wider rural community, it helps tear down barriers and make us less scary to those who may have the wrong opinion of us. An unknown is always a bit frightening. When they find out that we have the same issues as they do it becomes easier to accept.” While Don pledges to continue his work in the rural communities, he has issued a call of action for others as well: “We do need some of the younger generation to step up and continue what has been accomplished these last 15 years.”

D Rojas. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

D Rojas. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

D Rojas
Organizational Involvement: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Dykes on Bikes, Twin Cities Pride, International Gay Bowling Organization, Twin Cities Friday Bowling League, Gay Games Federation, NCSRCC Sisters in the Brotherhood, Northern Lights Women’s Softball League
You may have seen (or heard) D Rojas as she and the rest of the Dykes on Bikes roar past at the annual Ashley Rukes Pride Parade. D enjoys what she does both as a Union Journeymen Carpenter (for 28 years!) and as president of Dykes on Bikes, among other organizations she supports. Wanting to make a difference, D, along with her three other gay siblings, builds community and encourages community support in all things GLBT. D says, “My goal is to get the word out for all GLBT events, fundraisers, and also to help endorse GLBT politicians and causes. I’ve got a huge GLBT list on social media, which I use to get the word out.” D’s mother, Diana Buckanaga, serves as her greatest inspiration (Diana even received a Native Woman of the Year Award in December), along with Oprah Winfrey, who D quotes: “What you’ll find along the way will be fantastic, because what you’ll find will be yourself.”

Peter Rothstein. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Peter Rothstein. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Peter Rothstein
Organizational Involvement: Theater Latté Da, Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Ten Thousand Things, Illusion Theater, National Alliance for Musical Theater, Alive and Kickin
For many in the community, a trip to the theater is a great chance to relax and escape the stress of day-to-day life. And, thanks to the work of people like Peter Rothstein, GLBT audience members are able to see themselves reflected onstage. As a theater director I am always looking for opportunities to represent GLBT characters onstage, Peter says. And to do so in a way that honors our rich history and our profound impact on the current world. As someone who s support network and role models include a 91-year-old mother (who taught him unconditional love), a circle of family and friends (who challenge and inspire him), and his fiancée Omar (who makes him a better human being), Peter believes in the power of communal storytelling. He says, “I believe the stories we chose to tell can dismantle stereotypes and change perceptions of a given culture or community. I believe the theater can be a powerful tool for building circles of compassion and understanding.” As for the future? Peter can hardly believe his present: “I feel like I’m already living a future I never thought possible, at least in my lifetime—I am getting married.”

Amy Ruzick & Kay Johnson. Photo by Mike Hnida

Amy Ruzick & Kay Johnson. Photo by Mike Hnida

Amy Ruzick & Kay Johnson
Organizational Involvement: Twin Cities Quorum, RECLAIM!, Aliveness Project, PFund Foundation, Northern Lights Women’s Softball League, Habitat for Humanity, Project 515, Minnesotans United for All Families, Human Rights Campaign, OutFront Minnesota, Clean Water Action, Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption
Combined, Amy Ruzick and Kay Johnson have 23 years of real estate experience. In 2005, they adopted a mission statement that not only specified working hard for buyers and sellers, but also supporting the communities in which they live and the organizations that serve those communities. This has translated into the duo utilizing their time and business in the form of sponsorships, volunteering, and promoting various nonprofits, rotating their attention across the many great organizations in the Twin Cities. Who has helped them get to where they are? “Definitely our partners, our families, and our friendship with each other,” Amy says. “As former life partners, we are able to work well together as well as be there for each other and tag team fluidly.” While helping people buy and sell real estate is their passion (they can’t imagine doing anything else!), their hearts also lie in supporting the organizations around the Metro and operating by their mission statement. Amy adds, “And we will probably be sporting our giant ruby red slippers down Hennepin Avenue during the Ashley Rukes Pride Parade again in the next year or so.”

Becky Saltzman. Photo by Perry Whitlow

Becky Saltzman. Photo by Perry Whitlow

Becky Saltzman
Organizational Involvement: PFund Foundation, BECAUSE Conference, Bisexual Organizing Project, Minnesota GLTBA Campus Alliance, OutFront Minnesota, J-Pride, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLBTA Programs Office at the University of Minnesota, Bush Foundation, and Events by Lady K
As someone whose passion led her to a Masters degree in nonprofit management, Becky Saltzman is focused on how to further intercultural social justice within the constraints of traditional nonprofits. Working various freelance positions for nonprofits across the Twin Cities, Becky says she tries to do this work by “being authentic and honest with myself on who I am, what I want to be doing or working toward, and how I can give back to the people and community that has cared for me and helped me grow into who I am today.” Keeping these things in mind, she says, helps her to acknowledge the variety of identities within the GLBT community and work across all movements with an intercultural social justice lens. “My Jewish roots have always fueled my activist work,” Becky says. “One of the guiding practices of Judaism is the idea of Tikun Olam or ‘Repairing the World.’ As an out Jewish bisexual femme identified woman, I believe in bringing one’s whole self into the world and creating space for others to do the same.” In the future, Becky recognizes that the ways in which her journey manifests may change, but the desired result is the same: Tikum Olam. “I know what it is like to not be able to live your life fully and authentically and to feel invisible within spaces,” she says. “Therefore, because I am witness to (and part of) the inequities in society, it is my responsibility to be a part of the making the world a better place than I came into it.”

Corey Smith & Jason Jacobson. Photo by Mindy Gudmundson

Corey Smith & Jason Jacobson. Photo by Mindy Gudmundson

Corey Smith & Jason Jacobson
Organizational Involvement: Matthew Shepard Foundation, Clare Housing, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Minnesotans United for all Families
Corey works as a manager of diversity and inclusion at Target while Jason is the Director of Individualized Degrees at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Together, they have made it their mission to work for the GLBT community in what they do all year long as well as pour their hearts and talents into the Twin Cities HRC. “In its simplest form, we do this work because there are still GLBT citizens who don’t share the same rights and freedoms that should be basic to all humans,” Jason says. While both thank various mentors throughout their lives for grounding and inspiring them, they both feel the need to give a special call-out to Judy and Dennis Shepard. Jason says, “They don’t have to do the work they do. They do it because it has to be done. Either one of them could quit and say it is just too much. But they don’t. They keep forging ahead.” The two cite various causes capturing their heart at the moment, including marriage inequality across the nation, employment and other forms of discrimination, and bullying. “While the GLBT landscape in Minnesota may seem great, we both are motivated to do this work because there is still so much more we can accomplish, both inside and outside Minnesota.”

Dennis Spears. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Dennis Spears. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Dennis Spears
Organizational Involvement: Music Ministry at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, The Capri Theater, Plymouth Youth Center
People have seen Dennis Spears’ portrayals on stage for years; he was nominated for a Lavender Community Award to shine a light on Spears “being a wonderful representative and advocate for the GLBT community in his time off the stage” as well. The actor and entertainer has notably worked with Illusion Theater on an original production (Love & Marriage) in support of marriage equality that left audiences asking difficult questions about just where they stood with respect to the marriage amendment. Spears has even said that people went away from the production with changed minds, stating that “when they saw that it was just about love, and an expression of love, they started to really look at it.” As a working actor, Dennis’ work has been rewarded with an Ivey Award and induction into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, but it is his passion and drive off the stage that truly endears him to the GLBT community. “I have always tried to remain true to myself, always approaching my work with honesty and an open heart,” he says. “My journey has been supported by very strong, energized, and steadfast friends and family members. I plan to continue to work and grow. There is always room for growth.”

Twin Cities Leather & Latté: Karri Plowman, Tynan Fox, Luke Wallrich. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Twin Cities Leather & Latté: Karri Plowman, Tynan Fox, Luke Wallrich. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Twin Cities Leather & Latté: Luke Wallrich, Tynan Fox, Karri Plowman
Organizational Involvement: MN Leather Pride, Atons of Minneapolis, GLBT in Recovery – Twin Cities, Twin Cities Quorum, Metro IBA, Uptown Association, CARAG, Lowry Hill Business Association
From the beginning, the owners of Twin Cities Leather & Latté wanted a community space that required the community’s involvement in order to work. “The nature of the establishment challenges perceptions of self, stigmas, and identity,” says Luke Wallrich, one of the co-owners. “It asks that you drop your personal façades at the door and just be the authentic you. To our surprise, and delight, this reality is beneficial to community building in both the GLBT leather/kink circles and within the GLBT recovery community.” A big part of ensuring that the environment could be an active workspace for the GLBT community was creating a meeting room. Luke, along with his business partners Tynan Fox and Karri Plowman, wanted something that was a resource for the many groups and organizations that work to better GLBT lives in the Twin Cities. For just $10 or a $25 food and beverage minimum, any group can use the space for 2 hours. Large enough to host up to 25, it is the men’s hope that it will soon host regular GLBT-specific recovery meetings throughout the week, welcoming anyone interested to start one. “’Community First’ has been the sole mission of the company since it was conceived and we’re learning new ways to fulfill and engage that mission with each day we are open,” Luke says. “As long as the GLBT community will have us, we’ll be here working to make it better. We talk about what we try and do for the community, but really we wouldn’t be here without it. From our build-out to present day, we have had tremendous help from friends, community members, passersby, and those who also believe in fostering something great.”

Wingspan Life Resources. (Left to right): Wingspan Life Resources Program Director, Maureen Merrill; Development Officer, Darolyn Gray; and Rainbow Support Group members Karina and Tim. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Wingspan Life Resources. (Left to right): Wingspan Life Resources Program Director, Maureen Merrill; Development Officer, Darolyn Gray; and Rainbow Support Group members Karina and Tim. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Wingspan Life Resources
Organizational Involvement: Affiliated with ARRM.org
For over 41 years, Wingspan Life Resources has served adults with developmental disabilities in the greater Twin Cities. Based in St. Paul, Wingspan’s mission is to help people who are challenged by age, ability, or health to realize their unique gifts and dreams. In 2001, Wingspan started Rainbow Support Group of Minnesota to support GLBT adults who have developmental disabilities, and the program’s focus is on providing information and peer support, reducing isolation, and increasing safety. “GLBT adults with developmental disabilities are vulnerable, often misunderstood, and represent an underserved niche in the community,” says Darolyn Gray, Wingspan’s Development Officer. According to Gray, Wingspan was inspired by the work of Dr. John Allen who, in his book Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Retardation, wrote in 2003, “Although the process of coming out is complicated, it is doubtful that even those who are most understanding can imagine the obstacle of trying to navigate the intricacies of sexual orientation discovery by a person with a developmental disability.”

Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Jean Zimmerman
Organizational Involvement: Red Ribbon Ride, All God’s Children-MCC Worship, All God’s Children-MCC Social Justice, Gay-Straight Alliance (Wayzata High School)
Jean Zimmerman is happy with her life. Married to her wife, Rose Ahmann, for just under a year (though in their hearts, minds, and through the church for 14 years), Jean has three stepdaughters and nine grandchildren. Jean works as a technology education teacher at Wayzata High School where she co-advises the Gay-Straight Alliance. With so much bliss around her, why devote herself to service for the community? “Because I can, quite simply,” she says. “Also, life is about giving back when you are able, and about helping others be successful and at peace. Social justice issues are of great importance and a passion for me. It’s a ‘Nobody’s equal until everyone’s equal’ sort of thing.” With retirement looming five years away, it will undoubtedly mean new adventures and challenges in Jean’s life. “I would really like to retire to Costa Rica, maybe teach in an English-language immersion school, but that’s a bit far for the family to stay connected, so who knows?” she says. “I do know that I will continue with my sometimes-rabid social justice reform tactics, and probably be far mouthier in my old age in my attempts to enlighten and educate the masses.”


The Lavender Community Awards honor individuals, organizations, and corporations that make a difference in the rainbow community. Here are the winners from 2012 and 2013:

2012 Lavender 100 Winners
Joe Larson, Tim Marburger, Monica Travis  with The Aliveness Project
Roxanne Anderson
Seimone Augustus & LaTaya Varner
Claire Avitabile
Mary Brewster
Katie Burgess
Jessalyn Frank
Jacob Frey
Derek Harley
Andrea Jenkins
JJ Kahle
Richard LaFortune
Minnesotans United for All Families
Kevin Kaoz Moore
Rick Perry & Eric Blad
Shannon Regan
Miss Richfield 1981
Jordan Roberge
Barbara Satin
Patrick Scully
Shades of Yellow (SOY)
Soul Friday
John Sullivan
John Townsend
Bradley Traynor, Jason Matheson

2013 Lavender Community Award Winners
Billie Sage Ashton
Lupe Castillo
Cathy Croghan
Sharon Day
Dean Schlaak & Tom DeGree
Phil Duran
Peter Golden
Lou Hoffman
Tish Jones
Mary Jo Kane
Rabbi Michael Latz
Gabe Lyrek
Jenn Melby
Doug Melroe
Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ
One Voice Mixed Chorus
Ken Powell
Prime Timers
Captain Tara Robertson
RT Rybak
Barry Segal
Marty Shimko
Betty Tisel
Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus

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