LGBTQI: Community Heroes Making A Difference

Samantha Giusti: Executive Director at Delaware Valley Legacy Fund.

The LGBTQI communities have many leaders making a difference in Philadelphia. Here are 5 community heroes you should know.

Regarded as a rocket in the Philadelphia lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, Samantha Giusti (above) has taken off. After nine years of working in the communities, Giusti has garnered the reputation of a compassionate powerhouse. Throughout her career, she has helped to coordinate events for Stimulus Productions, and been co-chair of the Resource Development committee at the William Way Community Center. Today, Giusti has proven one of the LGBTQ communities’ most respected leaders and the executive director at the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund.

DVLF, an LGBT community fund, has helped to increase philanthropy and grant-making for the LGBT communities throughout the Delaware Valley.  With a bachelor’s degree in social work and theology from The Catholic University of America and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, Giusti has made it clear she is determined to streamline social change. As the organizer of one of the communities most popular fundraisers, Giusti has made DVLF’s annual HEROES awards a tremendous success.

“Being Executive Director of DVLF is the most important work that I’ve ever done,” Giusti said. “As a community, we’ve come so far but there is still so much work to be done. It’s a privilege to fund programs fighting the next battles of LGBT equality.”

Added to Giusti’s long list of affiliations are the Philadelphia Dyke March,  Allies Caucus of the Elements Organization, the Women’s Professional Roundtable, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Association for Fundraising Professionals, Delaware Valley Grantmakers and the Independence Business Alliance.

Brian Sims:PA State Representitive
Brian Sims:PA State Rep. in the middle.

State Representative Brian K. Sims has certainly made a national name for himself. Sims, the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania history, was named one of 10 chosen in Out magazine’s annual search for the planet’s most-eligible gay bachelors.

However, Sims has proven to be much more than a pretty face. A distinguished policy attorney and civil rights advocate from Center City, Sims was recently a recipient of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund 2014 Heroes award for his political advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQI communities.

“I am looking forward to full equality in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “We are closer than we have ever been in commonwealth history.”

Donald Jackson: Youth Leader
Donald Jackson: Youth Leader

Donald Jackson, a budding young activist and poet, was recently given the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund 2014 Youth Hero award for his work with the Attic Youth Center, a community center serving young LGBTQI members of the community.

“I want to be a leader,” Jackson said. “I’m not there yet but I’ll get there and hope to make a real difference.”

Jackson has been a fixture at community events and looks forward to being a driving force for LGBTQI rights.

“Donald has added so much to our organization and is growing into a strong leader,” said Carrie Jacobs, executive director at the Attic.

Iraq vet and a former U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's 8th District.
Iraq vet and a former U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 8th District.

Patrick J. Murphy, an Iraq vet and a former U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district from 2007 to 2011, has been a formidable LGBTQI advocate and ally throughout his political career in Pennsylvania. Murphy has been a vocal partner to the community speaking out for marriage equality, and full LGBTQI equal rights. Murphy and his wife, Jennifer have been  recognized as invaluable  members of the LGBTQI community by the Human Rights Campaign, the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund and many more community organizations.

“We must all stand shoulder to shoulder and make our country stronger,” said Murphy.

Today, Murphy is Anchor of Taking the Hill on MSNBC. This father and husband has made numerous appearances at local LGBTQI events to show his support, making him one of the community’s most reliable supporters for more than a decade.

Jen Leary: Co-founder of Red Paw
Jen Leary: Co-founder of Red Paw

Jen Leary, co-founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, served as both a Philadelphia Firefighter and Red Cross emergency responder. During her service, Leary saw the great need of animals and families in the area for support. With her experiences on the ground,  Leary knew she found her next calling. She worked tirelessly with her life partner, Lori Albright, to found Red Paw.

Red Paw is the first emergency rescue organization in the Philadelphia area dedicated to providing assistance and care for animals affected by fire.

“It’s hard work,” said Leary. “With donations and volunteers, we keep getting the job done. But there is always more work to do.”

– Text and images by Shara Dae Howard

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