By Staff, October 2016 Web Exclusive.

Each October, in honor of LGBTQ History Month as well as National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), ONE Community hosts its sixth annual Spotlight on Success luncheon and Local Heroes Awards ceremony.

This year’s event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix.

The event will honor 11 individuals – nine who are receiving a “Local Hero” award, and two who will receive the Change Agent award.

This year’s Change Agent Award goes to Dennis and Janine Skinner. Dennis and Janine are the parents of three children, which include a lesbian and a transgender man. As people of faith and as active allies in their community, they have worked to educate and raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in their community. 
 
The Spotlight on Success Local Heroes Awards recipients includes:

  • Deanna Jordan, Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (GPGLCC) chair
  • Stephanie Feder, marketing manager, and John Hamby, operations manager, for Uber PHX
  • Reverend David Felten, The Fountains United Methodist Church pastor
  • Tyler Kinnie, senior recruiter, and Katee Van Horn, International People Operations vice president, for GoDaddy
  • Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride executive director,
  • Donna Tanori, human resources director, and JoEllen Lynn, public & community affairs director, for Fry’s Food Stores

This event, “according to onecommunity.co, “celebrates LGBT[Q] History, our present LGBT[Q] and allied business leaders, their commitment to community and will ensure a brighter future for LGBT[Q] and allied professionals through our raffle program prior to and during the event which benefits the ONE Community Foundation.”

Echo caught up with this year's honorees to find out more about what this recognition means to them and their business(s)/organization(s) and here's what they had to say:

Change Agent: Dennis and Janine Skinner 

Dennis: "[Janine and I] are the proud parents of three kids – our son Jordan is 25, our son Ashton is 23 and daughter Sammy is 23. Ashton and Sammy are identical twins, and came out to us as lesbians when they were in High School. Ashton came out again in late college as a transgender man. Our journey with Ashton and Sammy began when they were born eight weeks early as miracles – having made it through a high-risk pregnancy in which the doctors didn’t give them much chance of surviving. Their coming out was a nonissue for us in terms of embracing our new awareness of who they were and how they were created. For years before the twins came out, we had been working in our church to lead a dialogue in hopes of moving folks toward embracing LGBT[Q] people in membership, marriage, and leadership in the church. So much hurt has been done by the church, and so much by families who reject their children when they come out … both institutions that one would hope would be the first place a kid can go to find love and acceptance. So, we continue to hunger for a world in which that’s true, and want to do whatever we can to bring that world into being."

Echo: Why is being recognized as a Change Agent important to you?

Dennis: Honestly, we feel a bit awkward and out of place among the amazing honorees in terms of the impact these folks have had in advancing the cause of equality and inclusion. From our point of view, all we’ve done is just love our kids for who they are and then go where that love commands us to go. When you see a world in which those you love the most suffer indignities, are kept from reaching their potential, and can be physically harmed for who they are, how can you help but stand up and protect them? Having said that, we know that, for so many LGBT[Q] folk, their family story doesn’t sound like ours. So, if our story can inspire a different narrative in other families, if our actions can bend the prevailing view of faith communities toward inclusion, or if our example can be even a small measure of comfort to folks who have been denied family love because of who they are, then that’s a win.

Echo: What is the one message you’d like to share with the community about your efforts (and that of your business/organization) leading up to this recognition?

Dennis: If you are a faith community leader, launch an intentional dialogue around why it is important to embrace LGBT[Q] folks and what it would look like to be radically welcoming. One Community has an amazing curriculum and resources to help you with that. If you are the family of an LGBTQ person, take a moment to remind them you love them without conditions. And for those of you who may be struggling, or even severed ties with your children, think back to that very first precious moment you laid eyes on your child. Remember that they are no less perfect or miraculous than the first hours they spent in your arms. Set aside your views of what’s right and wrong, or what’s “normal” long enough to just see the perfectly wonderful person you helped shape. Your love and approval could be the difference between life and death.

Echo: What would you say is the most important thing for the local LGBTQ and business communities to focus on and/or work toward in the year ahead?

Dennis: We can all start by raising awareness about the lack of legal protections in our state, recruiting new allies, getting people to sign the Unity Pledge, registering voters, and telling our representatives we need our laws to provide the same protections for our LGBT[Q] brothers and sisters that we straight folk take for granted.

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