Profiles of some of the people who work to make local LGBT community events and organizations great.
By Laura Latzko
Community groups and events depend on people who often don't get the credit they deserve. Here are a few of their stories
Giving back has different meanings for everyone. Some people give back with a word of encouragement, an act of kindness or a donation.
The unsung heroes who give back in Phoenix's LGBT community do so by working to make community organizations and events successful.
Many volunteers have given back nearly their whole lives. Others have found fulfillment by selecting employment with a local organization.
These are some of the unique stories of folks from varied backgrounds who aren't always recognized for their contributions.
Kevin Godfrey started to volunteer because he wanted to mentor youth. He volunteers for one n ten programs in Phoenix and Tempe and serves as a camp counselor at OUTdoors! Camp.
Godfrey said that although he comes from a more supportive family than many youth at one n ten, he experienced many of the same emotions growing up.
"I do know what it's like to feel like to feel lonely and that nobody understands," he said. "It isn't the specific experience they want you to relate to, but the emotions."
Godfrey said that he wants to empower youth to make good choices. He said working with young people has made him a more authentic person.
"They will push you. Many of them have been disappointed or abandoned by older people, so they don't make it easy for you to be their friend or mentor. If you hang in there, it's worth it," Godfrey said. "I tell them they have changed me more than I have changed them."
For Aunt Rita's Foundation, Godfrey has volunteered for AIDS Walk Phoenix and 5K Run as a walker and a volunteer coordinator, helped with the HIV resource website hivaz.org and assisted with SAVORlife events.
Godfrey joined the board of Phoenix Pride in January.
Mia Inez Adams, also known as T.M. Connelly, is believed to be the only transgender woman of color with a regular weekly show in Phoenix. She's used that platform to give back to organizations she believes in.
The nationally-recognized performer started work as a female impersonator 32 years ago and has held titles in the Miss Gay America and USofA systems. She transitioned about 15 years ago, and moved from Dallas to Phoenix three years ago.
She often does little things to give back to her audience, such as purchasing a birthday cake for a regular or boas for a bachelorette party. "I'm humbled you can be a part of people's lives by putting on a dress and a wig," she said.
As a promoter for the Miss Gay Supernova USofA Newcomer pageant, she mentors other drag queens. "I think it is an honor when someone approaches me and asks me to be a mentor," she said. "If I can assist someone, I will. Someone helped me."
She has participated in benefits for drag queens and kings, including a recent fundraiser for a Dallas drag queen going through treatment for cancer. She has also performed at benefits for HIV organizations in Dallas and Oklahoma.
In Phoenix, she has helped members of the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence get ready for shows.
Sister Alotta Hooka, also known as Ira Savely, works with community organizations as a sister of the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Savely volunteers with his partner, who went through the process of becoming a sister alongside him. For his novice project, Savely put together a comedy show to benefit the 1 Voice Community Center.
Recently, Savely became the marquessa for the Imperial Court of Arizona. In the new role, he will help to put together fundraisers, including a school supply drive.
Savley, who is recognizable for the use of orange and yellow paint on his face, said volunteering for the sisters means handling the attention that comes when he goes out in full makeup.
"Your heart's in it, so you don't realize how much time you spend at events," Savely said. "We do it because that is what we truly believe in our hearts in the right thing to do."
Andrew Barreras said he tries to be a teacher and mentor, especially to younger generations and people who are struggling.
As part of his work, he goes to high schools, churches, universities and businesses to speak about PFLAG, attends community group meetings and rallies and shares information at the Rainbows Festival.
"When I speak, I speak from the heart," Barreras said. "That is my chance to get my voice out there in the community. If we can move one person, it is all worth it."
An ordained priest of a reformed Catholic church, Barreras has been advocating for LGBT issues since the 1970s. He's been on the board of directors for PFLAG Phoenix for more than three years.
Barreras often talks with Spanish-speaking populations and LGBT youth dealing with religious issues. He said he learns from others.
"There are times when I think I love it too much," Barreras said. "The positive energy I get back keeps me going. I am very passionate about what I do because of the effect it has on people's lives."
Donald Smith: Volunteer work turns into a job
As site director at Q High, Donald Smith said his goal is to provide a positive educational experience for his students, many of whom have dealt with bullying and harassment.
The online high school is a partnership between the LGBT youth services agency one n ten and the Virtual Academy.
Smith assists online students in communicating with their teachers and parents, makes sure students are on track to graduate and brings in community partners for career-building and skill-development workshops.
As a program facilitator for one n ten, Smith has organized programs and workshops, including cooking and makeup workshops and a coming out group. He was co-organizer for a prom earlier this year.
Even before joining the one n ten staff, Smith worked as a volunteer, including serving as a counselor for OUTdoors! Camp.
In January, Smith joined the board of Phoenix Pride.
Smith said his experience attending local Boys and Girls Club of America from age 5 to 18 helped to shape him. In 2002, he served as a spokesman as the National Youth of the Year for the organization.
"It took me from being a child of a single parent family to seeing a future for myself. That really influenced the work I do now," Smith said. "It wasn't just the programs but the staff just showing their dedication and care to us that kept me there. I really try to give that same experience for the youth in our programs."
Volunteering has given Mahlon Lovell a greater purpose.
For five years, Lovell has been volunteering with the Joshua Tree Feeding Program, an organization that provides food boxes to low-income individuals with HIV. He's the group's fundraising coordinator, which means organizing events, such as the annual Dodge Hunger dodge ball tournament and a semi-annual bowling fundraiser.
Lovell, who has been HIV-positive for more than 15 years, said he does anything he can to help, including collecting food items, assisting on donation days and representing Joshua Tree at community events.
Lovell said he has developed as a public speaker and gotten to know others in the community. He said the work has made him appreciative of what he has and transformed him into a less selfish person.
"Most of my life, I've just been there," Lovell said. "When I started volunteering, it gave me a whole new sense of worth. I was doing something to benefit others, not just myself."
Through his work and volunteer efforts, Brin Scott does everything he can for the HIV and AIDS community.
In 2007, Scott was part of a group that approached the Aunt Rita's Foundation about bringing back the local AIDS Walk, which returned in 2008.
For 16 years, Scott has worked at Terros, a health organization that provides behavioral health, medical and pharmaceutical services. He became the program director of the organization's sexually transmitted infections prevention program in 2007.
Terros in one of 19 organizations that benefits from the walk.
Every year, Scott organizes a team for the walk. He recently started collecting his team's AIDS Walk T-shirts to make a quilt that documents the history of participating in the event.
Scott helped start Paws for the Cause, which gives pet owners a chance to register their pets for the walk. The program has raised $16,000 to $20,000 each year.
As a volunteer Scott said it's important to get others around him involved. "I don't get burned out because I get my friends involved," Scott said. "My main thing is to show anyone they can give back. I want to lead by example."
Tatum Hundley often finds herself speaking to family members and strangers about LGBT issues, especially when she goes out wearing T-shirts that promote the Human and Equal Rights Organizers (HERO).
Since 2012, Hundley has served as the town hall chair for HERO, organizing meetings that educate the community about topics such as marriage equality, the military's LGBT policies or transgender issues.
She said being involved has allowed her to develop strong connections and friendships with members of the LGBT community.
Hundley said she took an interest in fighting for LGBT rights after learning how non-minorities helped African Americans during the civil rights movement.
Hundley and her two roommates got involved in HERO at the same time. "We were sick of sitting on the sidelines. We wanted to get involved instead of just talking about things," Hundley said.
She said one of the challenges of being a straight ally can fielding questions about her sexual orientation.
"I want to be able to tell my children, ‘Look how crazy things were.' I want to look back and say, ‘I did something,'" Hundley said.
For Sean Nonnenmacher, volunteering has been a way to bring change in schools and have a voice in the community.
Nonnenmacher started volunteering with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's Phoenix chapter about eight months ago and will take over the co-chair position from longtime co-chair Madelaine Adelman this month.
When he started with GLSEN, Nonnenmacher helped with restructuring the local chapter's website, putting together a monthly newsletter, reworking the calendar, visiting schools during the National Day of Silence and tabling and canvassing at different events.
Nonnenmacher said he joined GLSEN's Phoenix chapter because of its mission of reducing bullying and harassment and creating safer schools.
"Bullying is a huge issue that keeps people from pursuing their interests and being who they want to be," he said. "I've always been one to advocate for the underdog and speak up when someone isn't being treated right."
When she volunteers, Lisa Schulman gives voice to the LGBT deaf community.
As an interpreter, she has volunteered for numerous organizations, including the one n ten OUTdoors! Camp, where she interprets coming out stories and poetry for LGBT youth.
"Being in a position to communicate someone's very personal and life-changing experiences to others in a way that would have meaning for them was meaningful to me," Schulman said.
Schulman said that her best moments as an interpreter have come when she has been able to emotionally connect with the content she is interpreting and facilitate conversations between deaf and non-deaf youth.
As a woman who has been married and had relationships with men and women, Schulman said working with LGBT organizations has allowed her to get in touch with a part of herself she often denied and wrote off growing up.
"Being a witness to the workshops I have interpreted, it has prompted a lot of self-exploration into my sexuality," she said.
Schulman has two children, ages 10 and 12.
Nance Stevens: Serving more than cocktails
Nance Stevens said she uses her "loud mouth" to help community organizations she becomes aware of while working at Cash Inn Country, the bar where she's worked Friday and Saturday nights for more than a year.
When the bar raised money for last year's AIDS Walk Phoenix and 5K Run, she sold dollar kisses on the cheek and dances, ribbons and T-shirts she cut up and decorated. This year she plans to help organize a team of staff and patrons for the walk.
A contemporary jazz dancer, Stevens represented the bar at this year's Sexiest Bartender Contest.
She is also attending Rio Salado College and raising her 5-year-old son. Stevens aspires to help individuals in the criminal justice system as a paralegal, and eventually a lawyer.
Stevens said she wants to give back because the staff and patrons at Cash Inn helped her to get through the toughest time of her life, when she was overcoming drug problems. She said that she now tries to be someone that others can talk to.
"If I chose to change any moment of my life, I wouldn't be who I am now," Stevens said. "When I meet somebody, I will get to know them. I won't judge them."