As the evening began in Helena, I was excited for this first stop of Pride Foundation’s Montana Tour. Our hope for the evening was to connect with members of the LGBTQ community, allies, partner organizations, and supportive local business leaders.
Excited as I was, I was also nervous that we’d face an empty room. When 6:00pm rolled around, though, people flooded in so quickly I could barely greet them all.
Held at Turman Larison Contemporary Gallery and co-hosted by Pride Foundation supporters Anna Doran and Audra Shropshire, we had an incredible show of support from friends in Helena and the surrounding areas.
Along with more than 65 guests, I was joined by Pride Foundation Board Member, Greg Smith from Bozeman, and three Leadership Action Team Members—Nik Griffith from Helena; Shawn Reagor from Billings, and Jules Shindel from Great Falls.
Anna and Audra welcomed guests and shared their reasons for supporting Pride Foundation—namely, their desire to raise their children in a community that values respect and equality. In addition, in the wake of two recent deaths by suicide in the Montana transgender community, Anna and Audra spoke about the importance of building further support for the LGBTQ community and the work of Pride Foundation.
Greg spoke about Pride Foundation’s impact through strategic partnerships, highlighting the critical ways our investments help grow the capacity of organizations and develop leaders across Montana. Speaking from a place of vulnerability, he also reflected on the deaths by suicide that affected him greatly given his direct connection to one of the individuals.
As a community and as Montanans who care deeply for one another, the past two weeks had been especially difficult, but Greg made clear that—through strengthened community programs and institutional reform—we can, together, work to provide the hope and security that we all need for full lived equality.
One person challenged us to consider the implications of focusing on individuals and families in more supportive areas versus people in more rural areas of the state. This is a critical point for all of us to remember. It’s what has informed our decision to launch Montana Community Gathering Tour, and our outreach efforts are dedicated to reaching more community members who are searching for connections, especially in more isolated parts of Montana.
The support shown in Helena was the perfect start to our Pride Foundation Montana Tour, and we cannot wait to visit more communities this year. We look forward to our next stop in Great Falls on April 9!
Kim is the Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Kim