Organizations: United Way Arise Project, Quorum, YouthLink and BRIDGE for Youth
Volunteer Service: Since 2014
What is your involvement with LGBT+ organizations and causes?
I have been serving in a leadership capacity for the last five years for the Arise Project, a nonprofit organization working to support the lives of LGBT+ homeless youth. I first got involved through my previous employer when another colleague stepped down from the role. I am also involved with Twin Cities Quorum, Minnesota’s LGBT+ and allied Chamber of Commerce. Associated Bank sponsors their monthly “Wake Up with Quorum” networking events for local business leaders in the community. I generally speak on the company’s behalf to welcome attendees and raise awareness of our community involvement. At Associated Bank, I serve as the Chair for Associated Pride and Equality Exchange (APEX) Twin Cities and we partner with a number of LGBT+ organizations, including BRIDGE for Youth and YouthLink.
What is the most rewarding part of volunteering for these organizations?
I think it’s two-fold. My work with the United Way lets LGBT+ kids know that someone cares about them and that it’s okay to be themselves. People will still respect you and treat you like a human no matter your orientation. Secondly, it’s knowing that my co-workers and customers can feel comfortable talking about their significant other of same sex without having to explain it.
Can you share a memorable experience with us?
Absolutely. One time I was volunteering at the Bridge for Youth’s “So What if I am?” picnic and a mother thanked me for organizing the event because it helped her transgender daughter know it was okay to be authentic in the workplace. After seeing business professionals who were openly transgender at this event, she realized she could find places in the working world that don’t care who you are, but how you are and the work you produce.
How do you feel volunteering has changed you as a person?
It has helped me appreciate the fact that my company allows me to be my authentic self in the workplace. To not have to hide the fact that I have a husband is a big deal. The company has been very supportive of letting me attend events in the community and represent Associated Bank as a company that is LGBT-focused—which is one of the reasons I choose to work here.
What have you learned about the community since getting involved?
These organizations provide safe places and services for people that are gay, which allows them to be their authentic selves and receive the support they wouldn’t have otherwise. One of the obstacles LGBT+ people face is “outing” themselves every day. I wear a wedding ring, so people assume I have a wife. This is one of the reasons it is great to see the number of LGBT+ organizations growing, because it helps educate the community. Another is because it gives people with philanthropic desires the ability to share their resources with organizations that support their passion. I know for me, it’s a cause I support during our annual United Way campaign and I give more than I otherwise would. Finally, volunteer events build camaraderie among colleagues and community members and provide networking opportunities for people and businesses.
What final messages would you like to share with colleagues?
I would just say that I am no different than anyone else. I don’t expect to be treated differently, rather I expect to be treated with the same respect and consideration as anyone else. That’s across all classes and all groups. I am very thankful that I can be me every single day at work and know that my company respects and appreciates it. As we are coming up on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement at Stonewall, it’s hard to believe it took this long to get where we are today.