Samantha's Corner - Our Summer of Service – and a Chance for You to Help

This summer has flown by so quickly. It seems like it was just time to celebrate Pride. At the Kansas City Center for Inclusion (KCCI), our work has been moving along steadily, reminding me that we should be proud year-round.

During Pride month itself, in June, we raised funds for the Trans Health Inclusion Conference and held a pride event at Hallmark in conjunction with the company’s Pride Employee Resource Group.

On the Fourth of July, KCCI programming included an Open Mic Night hosted by local word artist Alex Martinez and attended by more than 20 people. I had the opportunity to fire up the barbecue and grill some goodies. One of my most enjoyable activities is to feed folk while giving others space to express themselves in a safe environment.

Also in July was a volunteer appreciation event at Blade & Timber Axe Throwing, in Kansas City, Mo., where we recognized Center Ambassadors who have served for more than a year. They are: Elliot Boone, Kurt Kerby, Claire McEwen, John Mora, Nilufar Movahedi, Andrew Ordonez, Dylan Severson, Austin Strassle, Taylor Thompson, Patti Triplett, and David Whitner.  Every one of these volunteers spends time giving back to their community, not just at KCCI, but also in other ways. I am so proud of these and all of the volunteers who choose to spend time helping others.

I would also be remiss not to recognize our summer intern, Dana Stahl. Dana’s contribution this summer was well-timed, and we could not have grown without her service.  She has returned to Beloit College in Wisconsin to complete her degree in public health. We will miss her and hope to see her again really soon.

In August, I had the honor of presenting a young lady with a scholarship for $500. Called the Future Leaders Scholarship, this is something the Kansas City Bear Mafia has sponsored for the last two years. Their support is always vital. We really appreciate their partnership.

On Aug. 14, we hosted another LGBTQIA Leaders Forum. These events bring together the community in ways not usually possible. Although I am always thrilled to help facilitate these events, I am ready for another person or group to organize the next meeting. Who knows what is possible?

This summer we have taken on tough subjects such as cis actors playing trans characters, bi-erasure, and suicide. By far, suicide is our toughest subject. Please follow our social media and visit our website for programming on what I call Suicide Awareness, Prevention and Support (APS).

We have also been programming “Get Out the Vote” events, where we help folk register and explain the voting process. From 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 15, we will be at the West Wyandotte Library in Kansas City, Kan., with bilingual support for American Sign Language and Spanish-speaking individuals.

Later in September, I will be attending a leadership summit in Rochester, New York, called “All In: Inspiring Change Through Courageous Leadership.” It is put together by CenterLink, a network of LGBTQ+ community centers across the United States. Collectively, these centers serve 40,550 people in a typical week and refer nearly 5,550 individuals each week to other agencies for services and assistance.

The summit will include breakout sessions on addressing the needs of the community, such as “LGBTQ+ Poverty,” “Strategic Planning,” and “Institutional and Cultural Racism.” One thing I am most excited about is to meet one of the speakers, Mara Keisling, founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The final thing I want to mention is the upcoming Renaissance Festival (RenFest). For several years, the Equal Trans Support Group has worked at a restaurant at RenFest in order to raise money. Inspired by this idea, KCCI looked into ways to raise money at the 2018 RenFest. We were selected and are slated to provide parking duties for this year’s festival. In the interest of transparency, this fundraiser will raise nearly one-third of our operating budget for 2019. (And, if you are interested in how we use our money, let me put you in touch with our treasurer.)

We need your help for RenFest. We need community members to volunteer for this effort, alongside our board members, in order to raise money for the community and the center. Visit our website or Facebook page for more information or to sign up for a shift. Please consider helping us as we serve the community.

As always, I hope to see you out and about. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I will address questions in an upcoming “Ask Samantha” as part of my Corner.

Samantha Ruggles is the interim executive director of the Kansas City Center for Inclusion, 3911 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.

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