Throughout my travels across the Northwest, I have had the privilege and opportunity to meet with many Pride Foundation donors and supporters. I am always thrilled to witness the love, dedication, and excitement these individuals and couples provide—both for the LGBTQ community as a whole as well as for Pride Foundation’s unique role within the movement.
Thanks to the support of our donors, Pride Foundation is able to strengthen our community by providing grants to numerous organizations across the region that share the foundation’s vision for LGBTQ equality. Scholarships have also been created for LGBTQ youth, many of whom are on a path to become our future leaders and are already helping to change policies and procedures in the workforce and in our community.
In recognition of the incredible breadth of support that Pride Foundation receives year in and year out, I have profiled several of our Washington-based donors who are committed to helping Pride Foundation transform our community and our culture.
Kelly Lerner and Alli Kingfisher live in Spokane. Kelly, a Green Building Specialist for the State Department of Ecology, is originally from Indiana, while Alli, an architect for the Department of Social and Health Services, is a native Oregonian. The two have also lived in Costa Rica, China, Taiwan, Jamaica, and the Czech Republic at various points in their lives.
Kelly and Alli became aware of Pride Foundation through grants to Odyssey Youth Center, and they love how Pride Foundation gets involved in local communities throughout its five state region.
When I asked Kelly and Alli what they found most challenging about the fight for LGBTQ equality, they replied, “While we are so excited to have marriage equality here in Washington, we are appalled at the lack of basic employment and housing rights for LGBTQ people in many parts of the country. We still have a long way to go.”
That said, the couple believes that Pride Foundation has the experience and clout to motivate states and businesses around the country to “do the right thing” and protect LGBTQ rights.
Kelly and Alli’s idea of the perfect date is backpacking for two weeks amidst high alpine scenery. They feel at home in Glacier National Park, the Wind River Range, or the Beartooth Mountains, sleeping under the stars, and slowing down in nature.
Mark Lee was born in New Jersey and now lives in Richland, WA. He currently works in Kennewick, WA as a Development Officer for Planned Parenthood, raising funds to ensure that women have the ability to control their own bodies, reproductive rights, and health care.
“I first got involved with Pride Foundation while doing nonprofit work,” Mark explained. “I have been amazed by all their support. Pride Foundation is so much more than a foundation!”
What Mark finds most challenging about the fight for LGBTQ equality in the Tri-Cities is the belief held by many that their own values should be allowed to determine others’ behavior.
“I believe that everyone is happier and safer if we all live our lives and support each other’s unique traits independently of our feeling about them. The more diversity, the more creative energy, and the more we learn about the world that helps us to see everything in a different way.”
Over the next five years, with marriage being accessible to queer people in America, Mark trusts that queer youth will have role models who are in stable relationships and will feel safer and more hopeful about their futures.
Lauren Mehl recently moved to Seattle from Mount Vernon, WA with her spouse. They are both originally from Florida, but have been living in the Pacific Northwest for more than six years. During that time, Lauren has been involved with numerous youth and young-adult programs at nonprofits, schools, and national service organizations.
Lauren first got involved with Pride Foundation when her spouse was transferred to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and they moved to Mount Vernon.
“Right before we officially moved to the Skagit Valley, we saw an announcement that Mount Vernon High School was putting on a Rainbow Festival,” she explained. “We were surprised that the rural town we were about to move to was having this event.”
Pride Foundation was tabling at the event, and Lauren took the opportunity to inquire about how she could be most helpful to the organization. She had been involved with several LGBTQ organizations previously when living in Seattle, and was hoping to stay engaged in her new community. She soon began attending Leadership Action Team meetings and became involved in the scholarship and grant reviews. Nearly three years later she remains a regular volunteer and loyal supporter.
“Foundations are not just about donating money and fundraising. For Pride Foundation, it’s about leveraging the resources—time, skills, connections—and investing those things back into the community,” Lauren explains. “It’s about connecting organizations and people. It’s about learning together, celebrating together, and identifying where we go next. It’s about listening, discussing, and then actually doing.”
Lauren loves anything that gets her moving like running, hiking, Crossfit, yoga, and the bouldering gym. Lauren also loves to try out new recipes on her family and friends.
To date, donors and volunteers like Kelly, Alli, Mark, and Lauren have helped Pride Foundation provide over $50 million to support critical organizations, innovative projects, students, and leaders—addressing community needs in urban, rural, and remote communities throughout the Northwest. They, and thousands more like them, are creating change by joining together and making our region a safer, healthier, and more inclusive place for all. Thank you to all our donors. We appreciate all that you do.
Farand Gunnels is Pride Foundation’s regional development officer for the state of Washington. Email Farand.