Thank you so much for asking about the Lambda Foundation. I am truly honored to be the Executive Director of the second oldest LGBT funding organization in the nation. Part of my job description is to get the word out about Lambda and I will gladly answer your questions.
1. How did the Lambda Foundation get its start?
The Lambda Foundation began with a conversation between Randy Forrester and Lucky Johns. The two men pooled all of their resources together from the community and The Lambda Foundation was incorporated on June 17, 1983 with $16,000. The first grants were issued in April, 1984 to Dignity Pittsburgh and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center
2. Lambda has given away more than $1 million over 25 years, mostly in increments of $3000 or so. Please describe the impact of reinvesting $1 million in Pittsburgh's LGBT community.
Granted $3,000.00 doesn?t sound like a lot, but I think the smaller organizations that we have funded would disagree. I have attached a list of just some of the organizations The Lambda Foundation has funded and it is quite impressive. We have helped LGBT organizations in every area from the arts to healthcare. Our scholarship program has helped along LGBT students. We also have an emergency funding program that has helped some organizations when they were in dire straits and the possibility of closing their doors as a very real option. I am truly grateful to be the Executive Director of an organization that has helped so many.
3. Describe some of the projects which Lambda helped (or is helping to) seed. Just to name a few:
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force- I really don?t think I need to describe what they do. Everyone in the community knows of the wonderful work that Kathi Boyle is doing.
Transpitt- a wonderful support group for the often overlooked transgender community.
The Esther Project which through the leadership of Deb Aaron became the first federally funded health project which measured the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among lesbian women.
4. Can you list any highlights or exceptional moments from the past 25 years?
I have only been on the Board for 3 years so I took this question to August (Buzz) Pusateri and past Board President Chuck Honse.
The Lambda Foundation funded the legal battle for Travelers Bar. Which was locally known as the Saturday Night Massacre. It was normal in the early days that the police would raid gay bars. Travelers was raided one night and some pretty serious injuries of the patrons occurred. Lucky Johns, owner and one of Lambda?s founding fathers took the practice to court. The case proceeded to go to federal court and we lost. But the practice of raiding gay bars in Pittsburgh was ended.
Another legal battle that Lambda funded was The Fairness Campaign in the late 80?s. There was a movement to rescind an anti discrimination bill that gave lesbians and gays human rights in Pittsburgh.
The Foundation rallied forces and squashed the movement.
Last but not least Our Annual Ball- the first LGBT black-tie event in the area. This year it is being held at The Priory, Nov 22, 2008. Lisa Ferraro will be performing. Please come and join us in celebrating 25 wonderful years.
5. How does Lambda stay in touch with a queer community that looks very different than the gay and lesbian community of 25 years ago?
I personally stay in touch with what is going on in the community by reading your blog. It is quite informative. You are correct that the community has changed from 25 years ago. 25 years ago HIV/AIDS was devastating our community and it seemed like no one cared. There were only a few LGBT organizations in existence. When you look around and see all of the organizations and events that are taking place, yes I think it has changed? but for the better.
Pat Liddy our wonderful President is out and about at community events.
Reading through the grant applications and seeing the innovative and committed programs that are being created is also quite informative.
6. What challenges does the foundation face in the coming years?
The challenges are immediate. Many organizations are facing funding cutbacks on many levels, federal state and local. The Lambda Foundation has always been there to help them. Over the last ten years most of our funds have come from dividends, interest and capital gains on our portfolio. That is not happening now. We truly need to get the word out. When you give your funds or time to Lambda you are participating in nearly every LGBT organization in the area.
7. Where do you see the Lambda Foundation in its 50th year?
I would love to see that $3,000 grant to become a $10,000- $25,000 grant. In order to achieve that lofty goal we are definitely going to need to expand. We need to get the word out about our organization and get more people involved. I know the economy is not so great. If everyone on our list just sent in $10.00 it would have an impact. HRC started out with $5.00 checks coming in, look at them now.
I really think in 25 years we will have achieved equality. (Wouldn?t that be nice?) It has amazed me how much progress has been made in the last couple of years even with such headwinds coming from the right. Corporations are developing diversity departments. Our corporate partners UPMC and Merrill Lynch have been so supportive it amazes me. When I received the Merrill Lynch ad for our Joan Rivers Program (attend the event and you will see it) I looked at it and knew we are definitely making progress.
8. Please list your current board members (by affiliation if possible).
Patricia Liddy President
Rev, J Howard Cherry, OSL, OE Vice President
United Methodist Clergy, retired
R. Craig Bennett, CPA Treasurer
Terry Collier & Associates, P.C.
August ?Buzz? Pusateri Secretary
Dr.Nina Markovic Director
Associate Professor University of Pittsburgh
Anne Bowman Executive Director
Any parting thoughts?
As you know we are presenting An Evening with Joan Rivers at The Byham Theater to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. Joan Rivers graciously accepted our invitation and is taking time from her busy schedule to come to Pittsburgh. Go to her website, www.joanrivers.com, she truly has a busy schedule. She courageously was one of the first celebrities to support the gay community. Come on Pittsburgh, let?s show her how much we support and love her by selling out the house. There are plenty of $40 tickets available. Call The Byham Theater 412-456-6666. After the show you can check out all the other events going on for Pride. Scott Noxon, Pegasus, is presenting 8 Inch Betsy. Downtown Pittsburgh is going to be vibrant and alive on Saturday June 21st.
I really need to say something about Scott Noxon, owner of The Eagle, Pegasus and There Video Lounge, who has been instrumental in the production our Joan Rivers event. Working with him during the preparation of this event has been a true delight. I really did get to know him these last few months and all of the wonderful things he has done for every LGBT organization in the area. I can honestly say he is one of the nicest men I have ever met. He truly cares about the community.
Could you give me a brief bio of yourself and your role with Lambda. I didn't even know you had an ED! I admit that I'm not very informed. I don't want to be someone who takes you for granted (no pun intended).
You asked for a brief bio. So I will make it brief. My career was in the financial services industry from age 21 to 49. I had positions in every area from sales to CEO. I lived in New York City from 1974 to 1983. I returned to Pittsburgh in 1983 right before the birth of my son, Geoffrey. My son?s father and my best friend, Stephen, died of AIDS when Geoffrey was just a baby. Shepherd Wellness Center helped Stephen and his family in so many ways; they will always have a special place in my heart. I joined the Lambda Board 3 years ago. Right before my 50th birthday the Board was considering employing an Executive Director. Funny, how you reflect on your life when you hit that age. I wasn?t enjoying my career any longer and I realized it was time for me to give back to the community. I did love all the things we were doing at Lambda. So I presented a job description and budget to the Board. And the second half of my life story begins??.