The recipients of the Lavender Community Awards were nominated and voted for online in the month of November. Winners demonstrate clear dedication and leadership by being either out or an ally, and working for the advancement of the community that is comprised of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied people.
As proud parents of children in the rainbow community, Barb and Phil Schroeder have devoted time and work to East Central Minnesota PFLAG. “East Central Minnesota PFLAG is an all-volunteer organization that provides support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning persons (and those who are perceived to be), their families and friends by being a visible presence in communities across the five-county region of east central Minnesota. Over the years, we have provided monthly support meetings, brought in guest speakers, screened movies, held workshops and other educational events, and have raised awareness and advocated for LGBTQ persons in our communities. Our members understand the coming out journey, and we offer our support and unconditional love to people—especially youth and their parents—at any point in this journey. Two years ago, we started a college scholarship program for self-identifying LGBTQ students from our area high schools. East Central MN Pride gives LGBTQ people, those questioning, and their friends, family and allies an opportunity to meet and build community in an otherwise isolated part of the state. Without the event, we believe there may not exist an ‘LGBTQ community.’ It began in 2005 when it was just one of two rural prides in the nation,” they say.
“We believe there are several ways in which East Central Minnesota Pride and PFLAG have improved the quality of life in this part of the state. It serves the vulnerable, LGBTQ youth populations, especially those who are at-risk, showing that there are other LGBTQ people nearby to offer support and encouragement. It serves as a mechanism for civil rights, by being a visible presence representing LGBTQ people working and living in the five-county area. We also promote tolerance through awareness, education and community dialogue about LGBTQ issues. Again…all of our LGBTQ organizations share this vision and collaborate in doing our work.”
The Schroeders enjoy telling their own story to inspire other parents of GLBT children to work alongside them. “The award isn’t about us, but to be shared with all of the wonderful people we work with who have helped to build community for LGBTQ people in this part of the state: they include East Central MN Men’s Circle, East Central MN Purple Circle, East Central MN Pride and, of course, our PFLAG members and supporters.”